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Glycosaminoglycan binding by Borrelia burgdorferi adhesin BBK32 specifically and uniquely promotes joint colonization. Cell Microbiol 2015 Jun;17(6):860-75 PMID: 25486989 PMCID: PMC4437914

Pubmed ID



Microbial pathogens that colonize multiple tissues commonly produce adhesive surface proteins that mediate attachment to cells and/or extracellular matrix in target organs. Many of these 'adhesins' bind to multiple ligands, complicating efforts to understand the role of each ligand-binding activity. Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, produces BBK32, first identified as a fibronectin-binding adhesin that promotes skin and joint colonization. BBK32 also binds to glycosaminoglycan (GAG), which, like fibronectin is ubiquitously present on cell surfaces. To determine which binding activity is relevant for BBK32-promoted infectivity, we generated a panel of BBK32 truncation and internal deletion mutants, and identified variants specifically defective for binding to either fibronectin or GAG. These variants promoted bacterial attachment to different mammalian cell types in vitro, suggesting that fibronectin and GAG binding may play distinct roles during infection. Intravenous inoculation of mice with a high-passage non-infectious B. burgdorferi strain that produced wild-type BBK32 or BBK32 mutants defective for GAG or fibronectin binding, revealed that only GAG-binding activity was required for significant localization to joints at 60 min post-infection. An otherwise infectious B. burgdorferi strain producing BBK32 specifically deficient in fibronectin binding was fully capable of both skin and joint colonization in the murine model, whereas a strain producing BBK32 selectively attenuated for GAG binding colonized the inoculation site but not knee or tibiotarsus joints. Thus, the BBK32 fibronectin- and GAG-binding activities are separable in vivo, and BBK32-mediated GAG binding, but not fibronectin binding, contributes to joint colonization.

Author List

Lin YP, Chen Q, Ritchie JA, Dufour NP, Fischer JR, Coburn J, Leong JM


Jenifer Coburn PhD Professor in the Medicine department at Medical College of Wisconsin


2-s2.0-84929498420   29 Citations

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Adhesins, Bacterial
Bacterial Proteins
Borrelia burgdorferi
DNA Mutational Analysis
Disease Models, Animal
Lyme Disease
Protein Binding
Sequence Deletion
jenkins-FCD Prod-296 4db9d02597e0a2e889e230f853b641c12f1c3ee3