Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Influence of arthritis-related protein (BBF01) on infectivity of Borrelia burgdorferi B31

Denise Imai, Kevin Holden, Eric M Velazquez, Sunlian Feng, Emir Hodzic and Stephen W Barthold*

Author Affiliations

Center for Comparative Medicine, Schools of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-100

Published: 7 May 2013



Lyme borreliosis, caused by tick-borne Borrelia burgdorferi, is a multi-phasic, multi-system disease in humans. Similar to humans, C3H mice develop arthritis and carditis, with resolution and periodic bouts of recurrence over the course of persistent infection. Borrelia burgdorferi arthritis-related protein (Arp/BBF01), a highly conserved protein among B. burgdorferi s.s. isolates, has been shown to be antigenic in humans with Lyme borreliosis, and a target for antibody-mediated disease resolution in the mouse model.


A mutant strain of B. burgdorferi s.s. deficient of the arp gene and a complemented version of that mutant were created and examined for phenotypic effects in mice compared to wild-type B. burgdorferi. Deletion of arp did not abolish infectivity, but did result in a higher infectious dose compared to wild-type B. burgdorferi, which was restored by complementation. Spirochete burdens in tissues of C3H-scid mice were lower when infected with the arp mutant, compared to wild-type, but arthritis was equally severe. Spirochete burdens were also lower in C3H mice infected with the arp mutant, but disease was markedly reduced. Ticks that fed upon infected C3H mice were able to acquire infection with both wild-type and arp mutant spirochetes. Arp mutant spirochetes were marginally able to be transmitted to naïve hosts by infected ticks.


These results indicated that deletion of BBF01/arp did not abrogate, but diminished infectivity and limited spirochete burdens in tissues of both immunocompetent and immunodeficient hosts, and attenuated, but did not abolish the ability of ticks to acquire or transmit infection.

Lyme borreliosis; Arthritis related protein; BBF01