The causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted by ticks of the Ixodes ricinus complex. In this study, we report the antibody response of recombinant inbred strains of mice of the H-2, b, d, and k haplotypes, infected with B. burgdorferi as a result of exposure to infected I. dammini. The patterns of antibody response assayed by Western blot analysis indicate significant major histocompatibility complex (MHC) restriction to bacterial antigens within the first 2 mo of infection in mice. Other bacterial antigens induce a significant response across the MHC haplotypes tested when assayed on the same bacterial strain used to transmit the infection, but do not crossreact with the same proteins derived from heterologous strains of B. burgdorferi. No response to outer surface protein A was detected at any time during the 60-d period we analyzed this infection. A third group of bacterial antigens appear to generate a MHC-nonrestricted response, and this lack of restriction is maintained when assaying the crossreactivity of the response with other strains of B. burgdorferi. These proteins may provide more accurate diagnostic probes than those currently in use. Finally, there appears to be a significant difference in the expression of most bacterial antigens when the spirochete is cultured for many passages since the same strain of bacterium isolated from low-passage and high-passage preparations exhibit different banding patterns in Western blots when assayed with the same sera.

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