Membrane topology of Borrelia burgdorferi and Treponema pallidum lipoproteins

J. D. Jones, K. W. Bourell, M. V. Norgard, J. D. Radolf

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38 Scopus citations


A critical issue regarding the molecular architectures of Treponema pallidum and Borrelia burgdorferi, the agents of venereal syphilis and Lyme disease, respectively, concerns the membrane topologies of their major lipoprotein immunogens. A related question is whether these lipid-modified membrane proteins form intramembranous particles during freeze fracture electron microscopy. To address these issues, native borrelial and treponemal lipoproteins were reconstituted into liposomes of diverse composition. The importance of the covalently associated lipids for membrane association of lipoproteins was revealed by the observation that nonlipidated recombinant forms of both B. burgdorferi OspA and the T. pallidum 47-kDa immunogen (Tpp47) showed very weak or no binding to model bilayer vesicles. In contrast to control liposomes reconstituted with bacteriorhodopsin or bovine rhodopsin, two well-characterized transmembrane proteins, none of the lipoprotein-liposomes contained particles when examined by freeze fracture electron microscopy. To extend these findings to prokaryotic lipoproteins with relatively amphiphilic polypeptides, similar experiments were conducted with a recombinant nonlipidated form of Escherichia coli TraT, a lipoprotein which has putative transmembrane domains. The nonlipidated TraT oligomers bound vesicles derived from E. coli lipids but, surprisingly, did not form particles in the freeze-fractured liposomes. These findings support (i) a proposed topology of spirochetal lipoproteins in which the polypeptide is extrinsic to the membrane surface and (ii) the contention that particles visualized in freeze-fractured spirochetal membranes represent poorly characterized transmembrane proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2424-2434
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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