Borrelia burgdorferi bba74 is expressed exclusively during tick feeding and is regulated by both arthropod- and mammalian host-specific signals

J Bacteriol. 2009 Apr;191(8):2783-94. doi: 10.1128/JB.01802-08. Epub 2009 Feb 13.


Although BBA74 initially was described as a 28-kDa virulence-associated outer-membrane-spanning protein with porin-like function, subsequent studies revealed that it is periplasmic and downregulated in mammalian host-adapted spirochetes. To further elucidate the role of this protein in the Borrelia burgdorferi tick-mammal cycle, we conducted a thorough examination of its expression profile in comparison with the profiles of three well-characterized, differentially expressed borrelial genes (ospA, ospC, and ospE) and their proteins. In vitro, transcripts for bba74 were expressed at 23 degrees C and further enhanced by a temperature shift (37 degrees C), whereas BBA74 protein diminished at elevated temperatures; in contrast, neither transcript nor protein was expressed by spirochetes grown in dialysis membrane chambers (DMCs). Primer extension of wild-type B. burgdorferi grown in vitro, in conjunction with expression analysis of DMC-cultivated wild-type and rpoS mutant spirochetes, revealed that, like ospA, bba74 is transcribed by sigma(70) and is subject to RpoS-mediated repression within the mammalian host. A series of experiments utilizing wild-type and rpoS mutant spirochetes was conducted to determine the transcriptional and translational profiles of bba74 during the tick-mouse cycle. Results from these studies revealed (i) that bba74 is transcribed by sigma(70) exclusively during the larval and nymphal blood meals and (ii) that transcription of bba74 is bracketed by RpoS-independent and -dependent forms of repression that are induced by arthropod- and mammalian host-specific signals, respectively. Although loss of BBA74 does not impair the ability of B. burgdorferi to complete its infectious life cycle, the temporal compartmentalization of this gene's transcription suggests that BBA74 facilitates fitness of the spirochete within a narrow window of its tick phase. A reexamination of the paradigm for reciprocal regulation of ospA and ospC, performed herein, revealed that the heterogeneous expression of OspA and OspC displayed by spirochete populations during the nymphal blood meal results from the intricate sequence of transcriptional and translational changes that ensue as B. burgdorferi transitions between its arthropod vector and mammalian host.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Surface / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Vaccines / biosynthesis
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / physiology*
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Lipoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Porins / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Sigma Factor / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Lipoproteins
  • OspA protein
  • OspC protein
  • OspE protein, Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Porins
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sigma Factor
  • Virulence Factors
  • protein Oms28, Borrelia burgdorferi
  • sigma factor KatF protein, Bacteria
  • RNA polymerase sigma 70
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases