Borrelia burgdorferi elongation factor EF-Tu is an immunogenic protein during Lyme borreliosis

Sebastian E. Carrasco, Youyun Yang, Bryan Troxell, Xiuli Yang, Utpal Pal, X. Frank Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiological agent of Lyme disease, does not produce lipopolysaccharide but expresses a large number of lipoproteins on its cell surface. These outer membrane lipoproteins are highly immunogenic and have been used for serodiagnosis of Lyme disease. Recent studies have shown that highly conserved cytosolic proteins such as enolase and elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) unexpectedly localized on the surface of bacteria including B. burgdorferi, and surface-localized enolase has shown to contribute to the enzootic cycle of B. burgdorferi. In this study, we studied the immunogenicity, surface localization, and function of B. burgdorferi EF-Tu. We found that EF-Tu is highly immunogenic in mice, and EF-Tu antibodies were readily detected in Lyme disease patients. On the other hand, active immunization studies showed that EF-Tu antibodies did not protect mice from infection when challenged with B. burgdorferi via either needle inoculation or tick bites. Borrelial mouse-tick cycle studies showed that EF-Tu antibodies also did not block B. burgdorferi migration and survival in ticks. Consistent with these findings, we found that EF-Tu primarily localizes in the protoplasmic cylinder of spirochetes and is not on the surface of B. burgdorferi. Taken together, our studies suggest that B. burgdorferi EF-Tu is not surfaced exposed, but it is highly immunogenic and is a potential serodiagnostic marker for Lyme borreliosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54
JournalEmerging Microbes and Infections
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015


  • B. burgdorferi
  • EF-Tu
  • elongation factor Tu
  • immunogenic
  • Lyme disease
  • moonlighting protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Epidemiology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Parasitology
  • Virology

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