Borrelia miyamotoi, a member of the tick-borne relapsing fever spirochetes, shows a serum-resistant phenotype in vitro. This ability of B. miyamotoi may contribute to bacterial evasion of the host innate immune system. To investigate the molecular mechanism of serum-resistance, we constructed a membrane protein-encoding gene library of B. miyamotoi using Borrelia garinii strain HT59G, which shows a transformable and serum-susceptible phenotype. By screening the library, we found that bom1093 and bom1515 of B. miyamotoi provided a serum-resistant phenotype to the recipient B. garinii. These B. miyamotoi genes are predicted to encode P35-like antigen genes and are conserved among relapsing fever borreliae. Functional analysis revealed that BOM1093 bound to serum vitronectin and that the C-terminal region of BOM1093 was involved in the vitronectin-binding property. Importantly, the B. garinii transformant was not serum-resistant when the C terminus-truncated BOM1093 was expressed. We also observed that the depletion of vitronectin from human serum enhances the bactericidal activity of BOM1093 expressing B. garinii, and the survival rate of BOM1093 expressing B. garinii in vitronectin-depleted serum is enhanced by the addition of purified vitronectin. Our data suggests that B. miyamotoi utilize BOM1093-mediated binding to vitronectin as a mechanism of serum resistance.
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