Delineating Surface Epitopes of Lyme Disease Pathogen Targeted by Highly Protective Antibodies of New Zealand White Rabbits. Academic Article uri icon


  • Lyme disease (LD), the most prevalent vector-borne illness in the United States and Europe, is caused by Borreliella burgdorferi No vaccine is available for humans. Dogmatically, B. burgdorferi can establish a persistent infection in the mammalian host (e.g., mice) due to a surface antigen, VlsE. This antigenically variable protein allows the spirochete to continually evade borreliacidal antibodies. However, our recent study has shown that the B. burgdorferi spirochete is effectively cleared by anti-B. burgdorferi antibodies of New Zealand White rabbits, despite the surface expression of VlsE. Besides homologous protection, the rabbit antibodies also cross-protect against heterologous B. burgdorferi spirochetes and significantly reduce the pathology of LD arthritis in persistently infected mice. Thus, this finding that NZW rabbits develop a unique repertoire of very potent antibodies targeting the protective surface epitopes, despite abundant VlsE, prompted us to identify the specificities of the protective rabbit antibodies and their respective targets. By applying subtractive reverse vaccinology, which involved the use of random peptide phage display libraries coupled with next-generation sequencing and our computational algorithms, repertoires of nonprotective (early) and protective (late) rabbit antibodies were identified and directly compared. Consequently, putative surface epitopes that are unique to the protective rabbit sera were mapped. Importantly, the relevance of newly identified protection-associated epitopes for their surface exposure has been strongly supported by prior empirical studies. This study is significant because it now allows us to systematically test the putative epitopes for their protective efficacy with an ultimate goal of selecting the most efficacious targets for development of a long-awaited LD vaccine.

published proceedings

  • Infect Immun

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Rogovskyy, A. S., Caoili, S., Ionov, Y., Piontkivska, H., Skums, P., Tsyvina, V., Zelikovsky, A., & Waghela, S. D.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Rogovskyy, Artem S||Caoili, Salvador Eugenio C||Ionov, Yurij||Piontkivska, Helen||Skums, Pavel||Tsyvina, Viachaslau||Zelikovsky, Alex||Waghela, Suryakant D

editor list (cited editors)

  • Palmer, G. H.

publication date

  • August 2019