Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete agent of Lyme disease, has evolved within a consistent infectious cycle between tick and vertebrate hosts. The transmission of the pathogen from tick to vertebrate is characterized by rapid replication and a change in the outer surface protein profile. EbfC, a highly conserved nucleoid-associated protein, binds throughout the borrelial genome, affecting expression of many genes, including the Erp outer surface proteins. In B. burgdorferi, like many other bacterial species, ebfC is cotranscribed with dnaX, an essential component of the DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, which facilitates chromosomal replication. The expression of the dnaX-ebfC operon is tied to the spirochete’s replication rate, but the underlying mechanism for this connection was unknown. In this work, we provide evidence that the expression of dnaX-ebfC is controlled by direct interactions of DnaA, the chromosomal replication initiator, and EbfC at the unusually long dnaX-ebfC 59 untranslated region (UTR). Both proteins bind to the 59 UTR DNA, with EbfC also binding to the RNA. The DNA binding of DnaA to this region was similarly impacted by ATP and ADP. In vitro studies characterized DnaA as an activator of dnaX-ebfC and EbfC as an antiactivator. We further found evidence that DnaA may regulate other genes essential for replication. IMPORTANCE The dual life cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, is characterized by periods of rapid and slowed replication. The expression patterns of many of the spirochete’s virulence factors are impacted by these changes in replication rates. The connection between replication and virulence can be understood at the dnaX-ebfC operon. DnaX is an essential component of the DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, which replicates the chromosome. EbfC is a nucleoid-associated protein that regulates the infection-associated outer surface Erp proteins, as well as other transcripts. The expression of dnaX-ebfC is tied to replication rate, which we demonstrate is mediated by DnaA, the master chromosomal initiator protein and transcription factor, and EbfC.
|Journal||Journal of Bacteriology|
|State||Published - Jan 2023|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by NIH grant R21 AI147139-02.
Copyright © 2022 Krusenstjerna et al.
- KEYWORDS Borrelia
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology