Understanding barriers to Borrelia burgdorferi dissemination during infection using massively parallel sequencing

Infect Immun. 2013 Jul;81(7):2347-57. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00266-13. Epub 2013 Apr 22.


Borrelia burgdorferi is an invasive spirochete that can cause acute and chronic infections in the skin, heart, joints, and central nervous system of infected mammalian hosts. Little is understood about where the bacteria encounter the strongest barriers to infection and how different components of the host immune system influence the population as the infection progresses. To identify population bottlenecks in a murine host, we utilized Tn-seq to monitor the composition of mixed populations of B. burgdorferi during infection. Both wild-type mice and mice lacking the Toll-like receptor adapter molecule MyD88 were infected with a pool of infectious B. burgdorferi transposon mutants with insertions in the same gene. At multiple time points postinfection, bacteria were isolated from the mice and the compositions of the B. burgdorferi populations at the injection site and in distal tissues determined. We identified a population bottleneck at the site of infection that significantly altered the composition of the population. The magnitude of this bottleneck was reduced in MyD88(-/-) mice, indicating a role for innate immunity in limiting early establishment of B. burgdorferi infection. There is not a significant bottleneck during the colonization of distal tissues, suggesting that founder effects are limited and there is not a strict limitation on the number of organisms able to initiate populations at distal sites. These findings further our understanding of the interactions between B. burgdorferi and its murine host in the establishment of infection and dissemination of the organism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Load
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / immunology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / pathogenicity*
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Culture Media / metabolism
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lipoproteins / genetics
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism*
  • Lyme Disease / immunology*
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microbial Viability
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / genetics
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / metabolism*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / microbiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Lipoproteins
  • Myd88 protein, mouse
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88
  • oligopeptide-binding protein, bacteria