Invasion of eukaryotic cells by Borrelia burgdorferi requires (1) integrins and Src kinase activity. Academic Article uri icon


  • Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most widespread tick-borne infection in the northern hemisphere that results in a multistage disorder with concomitant pathology, including arthritis. During late-stage experimental infection in mice, B. burgdorferi evades the adaptive immune response despite the presence of borrelia-specific bactericidal antibodies. In this study we asked whether B. burgdorferi could invade fibroblasts or endothelial cells as a mechanism to model the avoidance from humorally based clearance. A variation of the gentamicin protection assay, coupled with the detection of borrelial transcripts following gentamicin treatment, indicated that a portion of B. burgdorferi cells were protected in the short term from antibiotic killing due to their ability to invade cultured mammalian cells. Long-term coculture of B. burgdorferi with primary human fibroblasts provided additional support for intracellular protection. Furthermore, decreased invasion of B. burgdorferi in murine fibroblasts that do not synthesize the (1) integrin subunit was observed, indicating that (1)-containing integrins are required for optimal borrelial invasion. However, (1)-dependent invasion did not require either the (5)(1) integrin or the borrelial fibronectin-binding protein BBK32. The internalization of B. burgdorferi was inhibited by cytochalasin D and PP2, suggesting that B. burgdorferi invasion required the reorganization of actin filaments and Src family kinases (SFK), respectively. Taken together, these results suggest that B. burgdorferi can invade and retain viability in nonphagocytic cells in a process that may, in part, help to explain the phenotype observed in untreated experimental infection.

published proceedings

  • Infect Immun

altmetric score

  • 4.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Wu, J., Weening, E. H., Faske, J. B., Hk, M., & Skare, J. T.

citation count

  • 52

complete list of authors

  • Wu, Jing||Weening, Eric H||Faske, Jennifer B||Höök, Magnus||Skare, Jon T

editor list (cited editors)

  • Bäumler, A. J.

publication date

  • March 2011