DNA methylation by restriction modification systems affects the global transcriptome profile in Borrelia burgdorferi

Timothy Casselli, Yvonne Tourand, Adam Scheidegger, William K. Arnold, Anna Proulx, Brian Stevenson, Catherine A. Brissette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Prokaryote restriction modification (RM) systems serve to protect bacteria from potentially detrimental foreign DNA. Recent evidence suggests that DNA methylation by the methyltransferase (MTase) components of RM systems can also have effects on transcriptome profiles. The type strain of the causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi B31, possesses two RM systems with N6-methyladenosine (m6A) MTase activity, which are encoded by the bbe02 gene located on linear plasmid lp25 and bbq67 on lp56. The specific recognition and/or methylation sequences had not been identified for either of these B. burgdorferi MTases, and it was not previously known whether these RM systems influence transcript levels. In the current study, single-molecule real-time sequencing was utilized to map genome-wide m6A sites and to identify consensus modified motifs in wild-type B. burgdorferi as well as MTase mutants lacking either the bbe02 gene alone or both bbe02 and bbq67 genes. Four novel conserved m6A motifs were identified and were fully attributable to the presence of specific MTases. Whole-genome transcriptome changes were observed in conjunction with the loss of MTase enzymes, indicating that DNA methylation by the RM systems has effects on gene expression. Genes with altered transcription in MTase mutants include those involved in vertebrate host colonization (e.g., rpoS regulon) and acquisition by/transmission from the tick vector (e.g., rrp1 and pdeB). The results of this study provide a comprehensive view of the DNA methylation pattern in B. burgdorferi, and the accompanying gene expression profiles add to the emerging body of research on RM systems and gene regulation in bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00395
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Lyme disease
  • Methyltransferase
  • Regulation of gene expression
  • Restriction modification
  • Singlemolecule real-time sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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