Evolving models of Lyme disease spirochete gene regulation

Brian Stevenson, Kate Von Lackum, Sean P. Riley, Anne E. Cooley, Michael E. Woodman, Tomasz Bykowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis), is well-adapted to maintain a natural cycle of alternately infecting vertebrates and blood-sucking ticks. During this cycle, B. burgdorferi interacts with a broad spectrum of vertebrate and arthropod tissues, acquires nutrients in diverse environments and evades killing by vertebrate and tick immune systems. The bacterium also senses when situations occur that necessitate transmission between hosts, such as when an infected tick is taking a blood meal from a potential host. To accurately accomplish the requirements necessary for survival in nature, B. burgdorferi must be keenly aware of its surroundings and respond accordingly. In this review, we trace studies performed to elucidate regulatory mechanisms employed by B. burgdorferi to control gene expression, and the development of models or "paradigms" to explain experimental results. Through comparisons of five borrelial gene families, it is readily apparent that each is controlled through a distinct mechanism. Furthermore, those results indicate that current models of interpreting in vitro data cannot accurately predict all aspects of B. burgdorferi environmental sensing and gene regulation in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-652
Number of pages10
JournalWiener Klinische Wochenschrift
Issue number21-22
StatePublished - Nov 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research in our laboratory is funded by grants R01-AI44254 and R01-AI53101 from the United States National Institutes of Health. K. von Lackum, S.P. Riley and M.E. Woodman were supported in part by United States National Institutes of Health Training Grant in Microbial Pathogenesis T32-AI49795.


  • Bacteria
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Gene regulation
  • Model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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