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Infect Immun. 2011 Aug;79(8):3249-61. doi: 10.1128/IAI.05122-11. Epub 2011 May 16.

The Borrelia burgdorferi integrin ligand P66 affects gene expression by human cells in culture.

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Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Borrelia burgdorferi, an agent of Lyme disease, establishes persistent infection in immunocompetent animals and humans. Although the infection in humans can be cleared by antibiotic therapy, persistence in reservoir animals is necessary for the maintenance of the bacterium in the natural reservoir host⇔tick vector infectious cycle. B. burgdorferi binds to β(1)- and β(3)-chain integrins, and the P66 outer membrane protein is responsible for at least some of the integrin binding activity of the spirochete. Because integrins are transmembrane, bidirectional signaling molecules, integrin binding may alter the nature of the host response to the bacteria. We used isogenic B. burgdorferi p66(+) and Δp66 strains to analyze the responses of cultured human cells to P66-integrin interaction during infection. Microarray results suggest that the response differs according to the cell type, infection time, and experimental conditions. Clusters of genes in functionally related categories that showed significant changes included proteins involved in cell-extracellular matrix interactions, actin dynamics, stress response, and immune responses. Integrin binding by P66 may therefore help B. burgdorferi establish infection by facilitating tissue invasion and modulating the activation of the immune system to other components of the bacteria, e.g., lipoproteins. These results provide insight into how B. burgdorferi is able to establish infection in immunocompetent hosts.

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