Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 10 - 2020

Christine Jacobs-Wagner, Biology
Jonathan Long, Pathology

Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Despite its prevalence and rapidly increasing geographic distribution, it is still not well understood how B. burgdorferi infection leads to a wide range of clinical manifestations including neurological disorders, heart inflammation, and severe arthritis. Recently, the Jacobs-Wagner lab provided evidence that a bacterial molecule, called peptidoglycan (PG), contributes to the pathology of Lyme arthritis. PG is a major component of most bacterial cell wall and it is shed to the environment during bacterial growth. Since PG is known to have immunomodulatory properties, PG fragments released by B. burgdorferi may also play a role in other stages of Lyme disease. In this project, the Jacobs-Wagner lab will join force with Jonathan Long’s group to leverage their expertise to develop a novel mass spectrometry-based tool capable of identifying the molecular identities of PG materials from complex systems, such as tissues and serum samples. We will use this new tool in genetic and animal studies to investigate how PG contributes to the progression of Lyme disease. The PG profiling technology will have broad applicability for other infectious and auto-immune diseases, and may aid in developing novel diagnostics and/or therapeutics for Lyme disease.