bptA (bbe16) is essential for the persistence of the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, in its natural tick vector

Andrew T. Revel, Jon S. Blevins, Consuelo Almazán, Lori Neil, Katherine M. Kocan, José De La Fuente, Kayla E. Hagman, Michael V. Norgard

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Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the agent of Lyme disease, is a zoonotic spirochetal bacterium that depends on arthropod (Ixodes ticks) and mammalian (rodent) hosts for its persistence in nature. The quest to identify borrelial genes responsible for Bb's parasitic dependence on these two diverse hosts has been hampered by limitations in the ability to genetically manipulate virulent strains of Bb. Despite this constraint, we report herein the in activation and genetic complementation of a linear plasmid-25-encoded gene (bbe16) to assess its role in the virulence, pathogenesis, and survival of Bb during its natural life cycle. bbe16 was found to potentiate the virulence of Bb in the murins model of Lyme borreliosis and was essential for the persistence of Bb in Ixodes scapularis ticks. As such, we have renamed bbe16 a gene encoding borrelial persistence in ticks (bpt)A. Although protease accessibility experiments suggested that BptA as a putative lipoprotein is surface-exposed on the outer membrane of Bb, the molecular mechanism(s) by which BptA promotes Bb persistence within its tick vector remains to be elucidated. BptA also was shown to be highly conserved (>88% similarity and >74% identity at the deduced amino acid levels) in all Bb sensu lato strains tested, suggesting that BptA may be widely used by Lyme borreliosis spirochetes for persistence in nature. Given Bb's absolute dependence on and intimate association with its arthropod and mammalian hosts, BptA should be considered a virulence factor critical for Bb's overall parasitic strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6972-6977
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 10 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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