Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Juan Anguita

Second Advisor

Barbara A. Osborne

Third Advisor

Lisa M. Minter

Subject Categories



The macrophage receptors that mediate phagocytosis of Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease spirochete, are unknown despite this cell type's importance in promoting pathogen clearance and inflammation-mediated tissue damage. We now demonstrate that the β2 integrin, Complement Receptor 3 (CR3), mediates the phagocytosis of opsonized and non-opsonized spirochetes by murine macrophages and human monocytes. Although, expression of the surface proteins, CspA and OspE, protects B. burgdorferi from complement-mediated phagocytosis, the versatility of CR3 counteracts the ability of B. burgdorferi to interfere with complement activation and complement-derived opsonins, thus minimizing the bacteria's anti-complement strategy. Interaction of the spirochete with the integrin is not sufficient to internalize B. burgdorferi; however, phagocytosis occurs when the GPI-anchored protein, CD14, is coexpressed in CHO-CR3 cells. CR3-mediated phagocytosis occurs independently of MyD88-induced or inside-out signals but requires the translocation of the integrin to cholesterol rich membrane microdomains. Interestingly, the absence of CR3 leads to marked increases in production of TNF in vitro and in vivo, in spite of reduced spirochetal uptake. Overall, our data establish CR3 as a MyD88-independent phagocytic receptor for B. burgdorferi that also participates in the modulation of the proinflammatory output of macrophages. Macrophages are critical cellular components of the immune response to infectious agents. During infection with B. burgdorferi, macrophages infiltrate the cardiac tissue and induce the activation of invariant NKT cells, leading to the production of the protective cytokine IFNγ. The interaction of macrophages with infectious agents leads to the activation of several signaling cascades, including mitogen activated protein kinases, such as p38 MAP kinase. We now demonstrate that p38 MAP kinase-mediated responses are critical components to the immune response during infection with B. burgdorferi. The inhibition of p38 MAP kinase does not alter the ability of macrophages to phagocytose B. burgdorferi; however, inhibition of p38 during infection with B. burgdorferi results in increased carditis. Through the generation of transgenic mice that express a dominant negative form of p38 MAP kinase specifically in macrophages, we demonstrate that this kinase regulates the production of the iNKT attracting chemokine, MCP-1 and the infiltration of these cells to the cardiac tissue during infection. Overall, the inhibition of p38 MAP kinase during infection with B. burgdorferi specifically in macrophages results in the deficient infiltration of iNKT cells and their diminished production of IFNγ, leading to increased bacterial burdens and inflammation. These results show that p38 MAP kinase provides critical checkpoints for the protective immune response to the spirochete during infection of the heart.


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