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Infect Immun. 1995 Oct;63(10):4130-7.

Experimental immunization with Borrelia burgdorferi induces development of antibodies to gangliosides.

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Department of Neurology, Hospital de Galdacano, Vizcaya, Spain.


Patients with neuroborreliosis produce antibodies, mostly of the immunoglobulin M (IgM) class, to gangliosides, particularly to those with Gal(beta 1-3)GalNac terminal sequences. Lewis rats were immunized with a nonpathogenic strain of Borrelia burgdorferi and with a chloroform-methanol extract (nonprotein) of this organism (CM) to determine whether antibodies to B. burgdorferi also recognized gangliosides. Rats were also immunized with asialo-GM1 to determine whether the elicited antibodies recognized antigens in B. burgdorferi. Rats immunized with B. burgdorferi produced low levels of IgM antibodies that cross-reacted with asialo-GM1 and GM1. Rats immunized with CM had marked IgM reactivity to asialo-GM1 and GM1. Immunization with asialo-GM1 resulted in antibodies that cross-reacted with B. burgdorferi antigens. Although antibodies to B. burgdorferi were of both the IgM and IgG classes, those to CM and to asialo-GM1 and GM1 were predominantly in the IgM fraction. Reactivity of the IgM antibodies decreased after adsorption with the heterologous and the homologous antigens, indicating bidirectional cross-reactivity between CM, asialo-GM1, and GM1 and that immunization with one produces antibodies to the other. There was no in vivo deposition of Ig in peripheral nerves, nor was there nerve pathology as a result of immunizations, but IgM antibodies to asialo-GM1 and CM recognized homologous antigens in the nodes of Ranvier of peripheral nerves from nonimmunized rats. This immunization model suggests that antibodies to gangliosides in Lyme disease have a microbial origin and are potentially relevant in pathogenesis.

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