Autoimmunity against a glycolytic enzyme as a possible cause for persistent symptoms in Lyme disease

Med Hypotheses. 2018 Jan;110:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2017.10.024. Epub 2017 Oct 26.


Some patients with a history of Borrelia burgdorferi infection develop a chronic symptomatology characterized by cognitive deficits, fatigue, and pain, despite antibiotic treatment. The pathogenic mechanism that underlines this condition, referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), is currently unknown. A debate exists about whether PTLDS is due to persistent infection or to post-infectious damages in the immune system and the nervous system. We present the case of a patient with evidence of exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi sl and a long history of debilitating fatigue, cognitive abnormalities and autonomic nervous system issues. The patient had a positive Western blot for anti-basal ganglia antibodies, and the autoantigen has been identified as γ enolase, the neuron-specific isoenzyme of the glycolytic enzyme enolase. Assuming Borrelia own surface exposed enolase as the source of this autoantibody, through a mechanism of molecular mimicry, and given the absence of sera reactivity to α enolase, a bioinformatical analysis was carried out to identify a possible cross-reactive conformational B cell epitope, shared by Borrelia enolase and γ enolase, but not by α enolase. Taken that evidence, we hypothesize that this autoantibody interferes with glycolysis in neuronal cells, as the physiological basis for chronic symptoms in at least some cases of PTLDS. Studies investigating on the anti-γ enolase and anti-Borrelia enolase antibodies in PTLDS are needed to confirm our hypotheses.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Borrelia; Enolase; Glycolysis; Molecular mimicry; Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antigens, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Antigens, Bacterial / genetics
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Autoimmunity
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / enzymology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / immunology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / pathogenicity
  • Cross Reactions
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte / chemistry
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte / genetics
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Glycolysis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease / etiology
  • Lyme Disease / immunology*
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / etiology
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / immunology
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / microbiology
  • Male
  • Models, Immunological
  • Molecular Mimicry / immunology
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / chemistry
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / genetics
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / immunology*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Autoantibodies
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase