Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology


Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

First Thesis Advisor

John M. Leong, MD, PhD


Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme Disease, T-Lymphocytes, B-Lymphocytes, Adhesins, Bacterial, Antigens, CD40


Murine infection by the Lyme disease spirochete, B. burgdorferi, results in the generation of pathogen-specific antibody that can provide protection against Lyme disease, but the cells involved in this response are poorly characterized. T cells are not required for generating a protective antibody response to B. burgdorferi infection, but their exact role in providing protection against tissue colonization had not been previously determined. We found that TCRβxδ;-/- mice were susceptible to high pathogen loads and decreased antibody titers, but inhibition of CD40L-dependent interactions resulted in partial protection suggesting that a portion of the help provided by T cells was not dependent on CD40L-CD40 interactions between T and B cells. RAG1-/- mice reconstituted with either un-fractionated or B1-enriched peritoneal cells from previously infected mice generated B. burgdorferi-specific antibody, and upon spirochetal challenge suffered significantly lower levels of pathogen load in the joint and heart. Peritoneal cells from previously infected TCRβxδ-/- mice or B2-enriched or B1-purified peritoneal cells conferred little to only moderate protection, suggesting T cells play an important role in protection against spirochetal infection the joint. Consistent with this, T cells from previously infected donor mice, when transferred with B1 or B2 cells into RAG1-/- mice, generated increased antibody titers and were capable of diminishing bacterial burden in the joint and heart. A previously identified class of protective antibody is directed against the spirochetal surface lipoprotein DbpA, and we found that DbpA is a prominent protein antigen recognized by RAG1-/- mice reconstituted with B1-enriched peritoneal cells. Additionally, we found that mice reconstituted with B1 cells also make antibody directed towards the spirochetal glycolipid antigen, BbGL-IIc, which is recognized by Vα14iNKT cells. Consistent with the idea that T cells are important in providing protection against spirochetal infection, RAG1-/- mice reconstituted with B1 and T cells generated a more robust response against DbpA and BbGL-IIc. These results support the hypothesis that T cells act with B1 cells in a CD40L-independent manner to promote the production of antibodies that play an important role in protection of the joint from spirochetal infection.



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