College of Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

Troy Bankhead, PhD
Assistant Professor

The primary research focus of my lab is the study of antigenic variation in the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi.  This tick-borne pathogen causes persistent infections that can lead to chronic neurologic, cardiovascular, and arthralgic manifestations in both humans and animals.  There is currently no available vaccine for preventing infection in humans.  B. burgdorferi can successfully evade the host immune response due to a survival technique involving gene conversion events at the vls locus that lead to changes in the amino acid sequence of the VlsE surface lipoprotein. The vls repertoire associated with mammalian immunoglobulin genes.  Interestingly, antigenic variation in B. burgdorferi only occurs during animal infections, and not when the organism is grown in culture.  Thus, it appears that mammalian host factor(s) are required to turn on the antigenic switching process.  Antigenic variation has important implications in the development of vaccines against B. burgdorferi and other Borrelia  species.  A recent breakthrough involving the generation of vls knockout clone of B. Burgdorferi has now made it possible for us to experimentally examine the mechanistic details of vls recombination.  Moreover, new insights into the workings of vlsE recombination have provided us clues to putative genetic elements that may play mechanistic roles in this process.  Our long-term goal is to identify the Borrelia protein(s) responsible for antigenic variation of vlsE, as well as the mammalian host factor(s) involved in turning on vlsE switching.

Other research interests include identifying virulence factors of B. burgdorferi involved in pathogenesis, as well as factors involved in spirochete adaptation to both the host animal and tick vector.










Last Edited: Jun 18, 2009 4:50 PM   

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