Characterization of the interactions between fibronectin and the Borrelia burgdorferi lipoprotein, BBK32

Sabitha Prabhakaran, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The findings presented in this dissertation detail the complex interaction between BBK32 and fibronectin and describe novel consequences of the interaction. BBK32 is a fibronectin-binding protein on Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. We found that BBK32 contains multiple fibronectin-binding motifs, recognizing the fibronectin N-terminal domain (NTD) and the gelatin binding domain (GBD) in an anti-parallel order, where corresponding sites in BBK32 and fibronectin are aligned so that there is a one-to-one interaction between the proteins. While characterizing this interaction, we discovered that binding of BBK32 to the GBD inhibits the migration stimulating factor's (MSF) motogenic activity. In the presence of BBK32, endothelial cells do not migrate in response to increasing concentrations of MSF or the GBD. MSF is found under wound healing conditions, and inhibition of its activity may allow the tick-transmitted spirochetes to delay wound healing and to establish an infection. Biophysical structural studies, designed to identify a mechanism of interaction, revealed that BBK32 binding to the NTD leads to the unfolding of plasma fibronectin, which exposes α5β1 integrin recognition motifs. Binding assays demonstrate that the BBK32-NTD interaction enhances the plasma fibronectin-α5β1 integrin interaction, which may allow B. burgdorferi to invade host cells, and thereby evade the host immune system. We also determined that BBK32 binds fibronectin F3 modules, which leads to plasma fibronectin aggregation and induction of superfibronectin. The resulting superfibronectin is conformationally distinct from plasma and cellular fibronectin, and can inhibit endothelial cell proliferation. BBK32's active superfibronectin-forming motif has been located to a region between residues 160 and 175, which contains two sequence motifs that are also found in anastellin, the only other known superfibronectin-inducing protein. A potential consequence of BBK32-induced superfibronectin formation was identified. BBK32-induced superfibronectin formation results in the exposure of α4β1 integrin recognition sequences in fibronectin. The α4β1 integrin is required for leukocyte transendothelial cell migration. BBK32-induced superfibronectin inhibits this activity. The inhibition of leukocyte recruitment to the infection site may slow the activity of the host immune system, and permit the spirochetes to establish an infection.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Microbiology|Biochemistry

Recommended Citation

Prabhakaran, Sabitha, "Characterization of the interactions between fibronectin and the Borrelia burgdorferi lipoprotein, BBK32" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3322429.