Treponema pallidum and Borrelia burgdorferi lipoproteins and synthetic lipopeptides activate monocytes/macrophages

J. D. Radolf, L. L. Arndt, D. R. Akins, L. L. Curetty, M. E. Levi, Y. Shen, L. S. Davis, M. V. Norgard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


The observation that the major membrane immunogens of the spirochetal pathogens Treponema pallidum and Borrelia burgdorferi are lipoproteins prompted studies to investigate macrophage activation by the 47-kDa lipoprotein of T. pallidum and the acylated outer surface protein A (OspA) of B. burgdorferi. Both lipoproteins induced the synthesis of biologically active TNF-α and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase in a murine macrophage cell line transfected with a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter gene controlled by a TNF promoter (TB2 cells). Nonacylated forms of these polypeptides did not induce cell activation. Comparison between purified OspA and B. burgdorferi cellular lipids revealed that the former was the more potent inducer of TNF-α. Synthetic lipohexapeptides corresponding to the N- termini of the 47-kDa lipoprotein of T. pallidum and OspA also activated TB2 cells in a dose-dependent fashion, whereas the nonlipidated hexapeptides were without effect, further underscoring the importance of protein acylation to cell activation. Among several lines of evidence supporting that macrophage stimulation by LPS and lipopeptides proceeds via different mechanisms, the most notable was that lipopeptides activated peritoneal macrophages from LPS- nonresponsive C3H/HeJ mice. The potential for spirochetal lipoproteins to function as general macrophage activators was demonstrated by the ability of the synthetic analogues to induce IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-12, in addition to TNF, in murine and/or human macrophages. Our findings indicate that spirochetal lipoproteins may be important immunomodulators in syphilis and Lyme disease and that the synthetic lipopeptides will be useful surrogates for studying immune mechanisms operative in the two spirochetal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2866-2877
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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