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PLoS Pathog. 2007 Mar;3(3):e33.

Outer surface protein B is critical for Borrelia burgdorferi adherence and survival within Ixodes ticks.

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Section of Rheumatology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.


Survival of Borrelia burgdorferi in ticks and mammals is facilitated, at least in part, by the selective expression of lipoproteins. Outer surface protein (Osp) A participates in spirochete adherence to the tick gut. As ospB is expressed on a bicistronic operon with ospA, we have now investigated the role of OspB by generating an OspB-deficient B. burgdorferi and examining its phenotype throughout the spirochete life cycle. Similar to wild-type isolates, the OspB-deficient B. burgdorferi were able to readily infect and persist in mice. OspB-deficient B. burgdorferi were capable of migrating to the feeding ticks but had an impaired ability to adhere to the tick gut and survive within the vector. Furthermore, the OspB-deficient B. burgdorferi bound poorly to tick gut extracts. The complementation of the OspB-deficient spirochete in trans, with a wild-type copy of ospB gene, restored its ability to bind tick gut. Taken together, these data suggest that OspB has an important role within Ixodes scapularis and that B. burgdorferi relies upon multiple genes to efficiently persist in ticks.

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