The Consistent Tick-Vertebrate Infectious Cycle of the Lyme Disease Spirochete Enables Borrelia burgdorferi To Control Protein Expression by Monitoring Its Physiological Status

Brian Stevenson, Andrew C. Krusenstjerna, Tatiana N. Castro-Padovani, Christina R. Savage, Brandon L. Jutras, Timothy C. Saylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, persists in nature by alternatingly cycling between ticks and vertebrates. During each stage of the infectious cycle, B. burgdorferi produces surface proteins that are necessary for interactions with the tick or vertebrate tissues it encounters while also repressing the synthesis of unnecessary proteins. Among these are the Erp surface proteins, which are produced during vertebrate infection for interactions with host plasmin, laminin, glycosaminoglycans, and components of the complement system. Erp proteins are not expressed during tick colonization but are induced when the tick begins to ingest blood from a vertebrate host, a time when the bacteria undergo rapid growth and division. Using the erp genes as a model of borrelial gene regulation, our research group has identified three novel DNA-binding proteins that interact with DNA to control erp transcription. At least two of those regulators are, in turn, affected by DnaA, the master regulator of chromosome replication. Our data indicate that B. burgdorferi has evolved to detect the change from slow to rapid replication during tick feeding as a signal to begin expression of Erp and other vertebrate-specific proteins. The majority of other known regulatory factors of B. burgdorferi also respond to metabolic cues. These observations lead to a model in which the Lyme spirochete recognizes unique environmental conditions encountered during the infectious cycle to "know"where they are and adapt accordingly.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Volume204
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all past and present members of our lab, and colleagues throughout the world, for their contributions to this work and interpretations of the results. These studies were funded by NIH grant no. R01-AI044254, R21-AI147139, R21-AI139956, R21-AI120602, and R21-AI106260 and by a grant from the National Research Fund for Tick-Borne Diseases. The figures were produced using BioRender.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Stevenson et al.

Keywords

  • Borrelia
  • spirochetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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