The nervous system as ectopic germinal center: CXCL13 and IgG in lyme neuroborreliosis

Ann Neurol. 2005 Jun;57(6):813-23. doi: 10.1002/ana.20486.


Lyme neuroborreliosis (LNB) is a chronic infection in which B-cell activation, plasma cell infiltration, and enhanced Ig production in infected tissue are prominent feature. However, little is known about how B cells and plasma cells invade and persist in target organs. To assess this issue, we developed real-time PCR measurements of IgG and CXCL13 production. We used these RNA assays and specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for protein and demonstrated that human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), stimulated by Borrelia burgdorferi sonicate, produced CXCL13 and IgG. Magnetic separation of PBMC populations and flow cytometry showed that CXCL13 is produced by dendritic cells. We then measure the expression of CXCL13 and IgG in tissues and correlated the expression of these host genes with spirochetal load. We also measured expression of dbpA and BBK32, two spirochetal genes important in chronic infection. There was a strong correlation between host immune response gene expression (CXCL13 and IgG) and spirochetal load. Immunohistochemistry of infected nonhuman primates tissue confirmed that CXCL13 is expressed in the nervous system. We conclude that persistent production of CXCL13 and IgG within infected tissue, two characteristics of ectopic germinal centers, are definitive features of LNB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chemokine CXCL13
  • Chemokines, CXC / genetics
  • Chemokines, CXC / immunology*
  • Chemokines, CXC / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Germinal Center / immunology*
  • Germinal Center / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / microbiology
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / immunology*
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / physiopathology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Nervous System / immunology*
  • Nervous System / microbiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • CXCL13 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL13
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Immunoglobulin G