Structural analysis of an outer surface protein from the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, using circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy

Louisa Lee France, Jan Kieleczawa, John J. Dunn, Geoffrey Hínd, John C. Sutherland

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19 Scopus citations


The etiological agent of Lyme disease is the tick-borne spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. A major antigen of B. burgdorferi is a 31 kDa lipoprotein called outer surface protein A (OspA). Recently, a truncated form of OspA (lacking 17 amino acids at the N-terminus) was cloned, expressed and purified in large quantities (Dunn, J.J., Lade, B.A. and Barbour, A.G. (1990) Protein Expression and Purification 1, 159-168). The truncated protein (OspA-257) is water-soluble, retains the ability to bind antibodies from the sera of Lyme disease patients and may prove useful in development of a vaccine against Lyme disease. We have used far UV circular dichroism (CD) and fluorescence spectroscopy to characterize the secondary structure of and to study conformational changes in OspA-257. CD spectra from 260 to 178 nm predict five classes of secondary structure: α-helix (11%), anti-parallel β-sheet (32%), parallel β-sheet (10%), β-turns (18%) and aperiodic structures (including 'random coil') (30%). Analysis of the primary sequence of OspA yielded the most likely sites for α-helical regions (residues 100-107, 121-134, 253-273) and for antigenic determinants (Lys-46, Asp-82, Lys-231). CD spectra of the native protein show little change from pH 3 to 11. Thermal denaturation curves, indicate that 'salt bridges' play a role in stabilizing the native protein. Both thermal and chemical denaturations that eliminate all secondary structure as judged by CD or fluorescence are reversible. Denaturation by guanidine-HCl (gdn-HCl) appears to be a cooperative, two-state transition, as indicated by a sudden change in the CD spectrum at ∼0.75 M gdn-HCl, and an isodichroic point at 208 nm in all CD spectra measured from 0.0-1.75 M gdn-HCl.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)/Protein Structure and Molecular
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 27 1992
Externally publishedYes



  • Circular dichrosim
  • Fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Lyme disease
  • Outer surface protein
  • Protein structure
  • Spirochete

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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