Gac Is a Transcriptional Repressor of the Lyme Disease Spirochete’s OspC Virulence-Associated Surface Protein

Tatiana N. Castro-Padovani, Timothy C. Saylor, Olivia T. Husted, Andrew C. Krusenstjerna, Nerina Jusufovic, Brian Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The OspC outer-surface lipoprotein is essential for the Lyme disease spirochete’s initial phase of vertebrate infection. Bacteria within the midguts of unfed ticks do not express OspC but produce high levels when ticks begin to ingest blood. Lyme disease spirochetes cease production of OspC within 1 to 2 weeks of vertebrate infection, and bacteria that fail to downregulate OspC are cleared by host antibodies. Thus, tight regulation of OspC levels is critical for survival of Lyme borreliae and, therefore, an attractive target for development of novel treatment strategies. Previous studies determined that a DNA region 59 of the ospC promoter, the ospC operator, is required for control of OspC production. Hypothesizing that the ospC operator may bind a regulatory factor, DNA affinity pulldown was performed and identified binding by the Gac protein. Gac is encoded by the C-terminal domain of the gyrA open reading frame from an internal promoter, ribosome-binding site, and initiation codon. Our analyses determined that Gac exhibits a greater affinity for ospC operator and promoter DNAs than for other tested borrelial sequences. In vitro and in vivo analyses demonstrated that Gac is a transcriptional repressor of ospC. These results constitute a substantial advance to our understanding of the mechanisms by which the Lyme disease spirochete controls production of OspC.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by NIH grant 3R01AI144126-03S1.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Castro-Padovani et al.


  • Borrelia
  • DNA gyrase
  • OspC
  • gene regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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