The potential bactericidal activity of the alternative complement pathway of mammalian and reptilian sera to Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.) was evaluated in vitro. Complement-mediated killing was observed when cultured spirochetes were inoculated into sera from the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) and from the southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata), but not when they were inoculated into serum from either the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) or from humans. Spirochetes were still alive after 4 hr in lizard serum that had been preheated at 56 C for 30 min to inactivate complement. Furthermore, when lizard serum was chelated with 10 mM ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid to block all complement activation, borreliacidal activity was arrested. When lizard serum was chelated with 10 mM ethylene glycol-bis(β-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid plus 4 mM MgCl2 to block only classical complement pathway activation, >85% of spirochetes were immobilized within 1 hr. Differences in B. burgdorferi s.s. mortality were not observed when chelators with or without MgCl2 were added to serum from either deer mice or humans. Proteins comprising the alternative complement pathway are responsible for the borreliacidal activity observed in the blood of S. occidentalis and E. multicarinata.

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