Mechanism of Borrelia immune evasion by FhbA-related proteins

PLoS Pathog. 2022 Mar 18;18(3):e1010338. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010338. eCollection 2022 Mar.


Immune evasion facilitates survival of Borrelia, leading to infections like relapsing fever and Lyme disease. Important mechanism for complement evasion is acquisition of the main host complement inhibitor, factor H (FH). By determining the 2.2 Å crystal structure of Factor H binding protein A (FhbA) from Borrelia hermsii in complex with FH domains 19-20, combined with extensive mutagenesis, we identified the structural mechanism by which B. hermsii utilizes FhbA in immune evasion. Moreover, structure-guided sequence database analysis identified a new family of FhbA-related immune evasion molecules from Lyme disease and relapsing fever Borrelia. Conserved FH-binding mechanism within the FhbA-family was verified by analysis of a novel FH-binding protein from B. duttonii. By sequence analysis, we were able to group FH-binding proteins of Borrelia into four distinct phyletic types and identified novel putative FH-binding proteins. The conserved FH-binding mechanism of the FhbA-related proteins could aid in developing new approaches to inhibit virulence and complement resistance in Borrelia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Borrelia* / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion
  • Lyme Disease*
  • Relapsing Fever* / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins