The lack of methods for isolating Borrelia burgdorferi outer membranes (OMs) has hindered efforts to characterize borrelial surface-exposed proteins. Here we isolated OMs by immersion of motile spirochetes in hypertonic sucrose followed by isopycnic ultracentrifugation of the plasmolyzed cells. The unilamellar vesicles thus obtained were shown to be OMs by the following criteria: (i) they contained OspA and OspB; (ii) they did not contain flagellin, NADH oxidase activity, or the 60-kDa heat shock protein; and (iii) their morphology by freeze-fracture electron microscopy was identical to that of OMs of intact organisms. Consistent with previous studies which employed immunoelectron microscopy and detergent-based solubilization of B. burgdorferi OMs, only small proportions of the total cellular content of OspA or OspB were OM associated. Sodium dodecyl sulfate- polyactylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) fluorography of OMs from spirochetes metabolically radiolabeled with [3H]palmitate or 35S-amino acids demonstrated that the OMs contained both nonlipidated and lipidated proteins. This fractionation procedure was also used to isolate OMs from virulent and avirulent isolates of the well-characterized B. burgdorferi N40 strain. SDS-PAGE fluorography revealed that OMs from the two isolates differed with respect to both nonlipoprotein and lipoprotein constituents. When whole cells, protoplasmic cylinders, and OMs were immunoblotted against sera from mice persistently infected with B. burgdorferi N40, the majority of antibody reactivity was directed against intracellular proteins. The availability of isolated OMs should facilitate efforts to elucidate the complex relationship(s) between B. burgdorferi membrane composition and Lyme disease pathogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases