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Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Nov;58(11):3609-17. doi: 10.1002/art.23972.

Borrelia burgdorferi NapA-driven Th17 cell inflammation in lyme arthritis.

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Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine, and University of Padua, Padua, Italy.



Human Lyme arthritis caused by Borrelia burgdorferi is characterized by an inflammatory infiltrate that consists mainly of neutrophils and T cells. This study was undertaken to evaluate the role of the innate and acquired immune responses elicited by the neutrophil-activating protein A (NapA) of B burgdorferi in patients with Lyme arthritis.


Serum anti-NapA antibodies were measured in 27 patients with Lyme arthritis and 30 healthy control subjects. The cytokine profile of synovial fluid T cells specific for NapA was investigated in 5 patients with Lyme arthritis. The cytokine profile induced by NapA in neutrophils and monocytes was also investigated.


Serum anti-NapA antibodies were found in 48% of the patients with Lyme arthritis but were undetectable in the healthy controls. T cells from the synovial fluid of patients with Lyme arthritis produced interleukin-17 (IL-17) in response to NapA. Moreover, NapA was able to induce the expression of IL-23 in neutrophils and monocytes, as well as the expression of IL-6, IL-1beta, and transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) in monocytes, via Toll-like receptor 2.


These findings indicate that NapA of B burgdorferi is able to drive the expression of IL-6, IL-1beta, IL-23, and TGFbeta by cells of the innate immune system and to elicit a synovial fluid Th17 cell response that might play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of Lyme arthritis.

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