Simultaneous expression of Borrelia OspA and OspC and IgM response in cerebrospinal fluid in early neurologic Lyme disease

J Clin Invest. 1997 Aug 15;100(4):763-7. doi: 10.1172/JCI119589.


Lyme disease is the major tick-borne disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). Neurological involvement is common in all stages. In vivo expression of Bb antigens (Ags) and the immune response to them has not been well investigated in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Upregulation of outer surface protein (Osp) C and concomitant downregulation of OspA before tick inoculation of the spirochete has been reported in skin and blood in animals. CSF OspA Ag in early disease suggests otherwise in CSF. Early Ag expression and IgM response in human CSF was investigated here. Paired CSF and serum was collected from 16 early, predominantly erythema migrans Lyme disease patients with neurologic problems, 13 late Lyme disease patients, and 19 other neurologic disease (OND) controls. Samples were examined for IgM reactivity to recombinant Bb-specific Osps using ELISA and immunoblot. Of 12 early Lyme disease patients with neurologic involvement with both CSF and serum IgM against OspC, 7 (58%) had IgM to OspA (n = 5) or OspB (n = 2) that was restricted to the CSF, not serum. Overall, 12 of 16 (75%) of these early Lyme disease patients with neurologic involvement had CSF and serum IgM against OspC. Only 3 of 13 (23%) late Lyme disease patients and none of 19 OND controls had CSF IgM directed against OspC. In conclusion, in CSF, OspC and OspA can be coexpressed, and IgM response to them occurs in early Lyme disease patients with neurologic involvement. This biologic finding may also provide a discriminating marker for CNS infection in Lyme disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Bacterial*
  • Antigens, Surface / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / immunology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / metabolism
  • Child
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Lyme Disease / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Lyme Disease / diagnosis
  • Middle Aged


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Biomarkers
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Lipoproteins
  • OspA protein
  • OspC protein
  • OspB protein, Borrelia burgdorferi