Lipid Exchange between Borrelia burgdorferi and Host Cells

Jameson T. Crowley, Alvaro M. Toledo, Timothy J. LaRocca, James L. Coleman, Erwin London, Jorge L. Benach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, has cholesterol and cholesterol-glycolipids that are essential for bacterial fitness, are antigenic, and could be important in mediating interactions with cells of the eukaryotic host. We show that the spirochetes can acquire cholesterol from plasma membranes of epithelial cells. In addition, through fluorescent and confocal microscopy combined with biochemical approaches, we demonstrated that B. burgdorferi labeled with the fluorescent cholesterol analog BODIPY-cholesterol or 3H-labeled cholesterol transfer both cholesterol and cholesterol-glycolipids to HeLa cells. The transfer occurs through two different mechanisms, by direct contact between the bacteria and eukaryotic cell and/or through release of outer membrane vesicles. Thus, two-way lipid exchange between spirochetes and host cells can occur. This lipid exchange could be an important process that contributes to the pathogenesis of Lyme disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003109
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology

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