Synthesis of autoinducer 2 by the lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi

Kelly Babb, Kate Von Lackum, Rachel L. Wattier, Sean P. Riley, Brian Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Defining the metabolic capabilities and regulatory mechanisms controlling gene expression is a valuable step in understanding the pathogenic properties of infectious agents such as Borrelia burgdorferi. The present studies demonstrated that B. burgdorferi encodes functional Pfs and LuxS enzymes for the breakdown of toxic products of methylation reactions. Consistent with those observations, B. burgdorferi was shown to synthesize the end product 4,5-dihydroxy-2,3-pentanedione (DPD) during laboratory cultivation. DPD undergoes spontaneous rearrangements to produce a class of pheromones collectively named autoinducer 2 (AI-2). Addition of in vitro-synthesized DPD to cultured B. burgdorferi resulted in differential expression of a distinct subset of proteins, including the outer surface lipoprotein VIsE. Although many bacteria can utilize the other LuxS product, homocysteine, for regeneration of methionine, B. burgdorferi was found to lack such ability. It is hypothesized that A. burgdorferi produces LuxS for the express purpose of synthesizing DPD and utilizes a form of that molecule as an AI-2 pheromone to control gene expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3079-3087
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Synthesis of autoinducer 2 by the lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this