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      Cyclic di-GMP is Essential for the Survival of the Lyme Disease Spirochete in Ticks

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          Cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP) is a bacterial second messenger that modulates many biological processes. Although its role in bacterial pathogenesis during mammalian infection has been documented, the role of c-di-GMP in a pathogen's life cycle within a vector host is less understood. The enzootic cycle of the Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi involves both a mammalian host and an Ixodes tick vector. The B. burgdorferi genome encodes a single copy of the diguanylate cyclase gene ( rrp1), which is responsible for c-di-GMP synthesis. To determine the role of c-di-GMP in the life cycle of B. burgdorferi, an Rrp1-deficient B. burgdorferi strain was generated. The rrp1 mutant remains infectious in the mammalian host but cannot survive in the tick vector. Microarray analyses revealed that expression of a four-gene operon involved in glycerol transport and metabolism, bb0240-bb0243, was significantly downregulated by abrogation of Rrp1. In vitro, the rrp1 mutant is impaired in growth in the media containing glycerol as the carbon source (BSK-glycerol). To determine the contribution of the glycerol metabolic pathway to the rrp1 mutant phenotype, a glp mutant, in which the entire bb0240-bb0243 operon is not expressed, was generated. Similar to the rrp1 mutant, the glp mutant has a growth defect in BSK-glycerol medium. In vivo, the glp mutant is also infectious in mice but has reduced survival in ticks. Constitutive expression of the bb0240-bb0243 operon in the rrp1 mutant fully rescues the growth defect in BSK-glycerol medium and partially restores survival of the rrp1 mutant in ticks. Thus, c-di-GMP appears to govern a catabolic switch in B. burgdorferi and plays a vital role in the tick part of the spirochetal enzootic cycle. This work provides the first evidence that c-di-GMP is essential for a pathogen's survival in its vector host.

          Author Summary

          The Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi has two sets of two-component systems, Hk1-Rrp1 and Hk2-Rrp2. The Hk2-Rrp2 signaling system has been shown to modulate differential expression of numerous surface lipoprotein genes and to play an essential role in spirochete transformation from a tick colonizer to a mammalian host-adapted state. In this study, we show that Rrp1, the only diguanylate cyclase in B. burgdorferi, is not required for mammalian infection but is essential for spirochete survival in the tick vector. We identify over 39 genes whose expression is influenced by this c-di-GMP signaling system. We further demonstrate that one set of the Rrp1-dependent genes, the glp operon for glycerol transport and metabolism, plays an important role in the spirochete adaptation to tick environment and partially accounts for the essentiality of c-di-GMP for B. burgdorferi survival in ticks.

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          Most cited references 96

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          Principles of c-di-GMP signalling in bacteria.

           Regine Hengge (2009)
          On the stage of bacterial signal transduction and regulation, bis-(3'-5')-cyclic dimeric guanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP) has long played the part of Sleeping Beauty. c-di-GMP was first described in 1987, but only recently was it recognized that the enzymes that 'make and break' it are not only ubiquitous in the bacterial world, but are found in many species in huge numbers. As a key player in the decision between the motile planktonic and sedentary biofilm-associated bacterial 'lifestyles', c-di-GMP binds to an unprecedented range of effector components and controls diverse targets, including transcription, the activities of enzymes and larger cellular structures. This Review focuses on emerging principles of c-di-GMP signalling using selected systems in different bacteria as examples.
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            Genomic sequence of a Lyme disease spirochaete, Borrelia burgdorferi.

            The genome of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi B31, the aetiologic agent of Lyme disease, contains a linear chromosome of 910,725 base pairs and at least 17 linear and circular plasmids with a combined size of more than 533,000 base pairs. The chromosome contains 853 genes encoding a basic set of proteins for DNA replication, transcription, translation, solute transport and energy metabolism, but, like Mycoplasma genitalium, it contains no genes for cellular biosynthetic reactions. Because B. burgdorferi and M. genitalium are distantly related eubacteria, we suggest that their limited metabolic capacities reflect convergent evolution by gene loss from more metabolically competent progenitors. Of 430 genes on 11 plasmids, most have no known biological function; 39% of plasmid genes are paralogues that form 47 gene families. The biological significance of the multiple plasmid-encoded genes is not clear, although they may be involved in antigenic variation or immune evasion.
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              A chemosensory system that regulates biofilm formation through modulation of cyclic diguanylate levels.

              Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes chronic biofilm infections, and its ability to attach to surfaces and other cells is important for biofilm formation and maintenance. Mutations in a gene called wspF, part of a putative chemosensory signal-transduction operon, have been shown to result in cell aggregation and altered colony morphology. The WspF phenotypes depend on the presence of WspR, which is a member of a family of signal transduction proteins known as response regulators. It is likely that the effect of the wspF mutation is to cause constitutive activation of WspR by phosphorylation. WspR contains a GGDEF domain known to catalyze formation of a cytoplasmic signaling molecule cyclic diguanylate (c-diGMP). We determined that purified WspR catalyzed the formation of c-diGMP in vitro and phosphorylation stimulated this activity. We observed increased cellular levels of c-diGMP and increased biofilm formation in a wspF mutant. Expression of a protein predicted to catalyze degradation of c-diGMP reversed the phenotypes of a wspF mutant and inhibited biofilm initiation by wild-type cells, indicating that the presence of c-diGMP is necessary for biofilm formation. A transcriptome analysis showed that expression levels of at least 560 genes were affected by a wspF deletion. The psl and pel operons, which are involved in exopolysaccharide production and biofilm formation, were expressed at high levels in a wspF mutant. Together, the data suggest that the wsp signal transduction pathway regulates biofilm formation through modulation of cyclic diguanylate levels.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Pathog
                PLoS Pathogens
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                June 2011
                June 2011
                30 June 2011
                : 7
                : 6
                [1 ]Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, Unites States of America
                [3 ]Institute of Insect Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
                [4 ]Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America
                [5 ]Department of Molecular Biology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, United States of America
                Medical College of Wisconsin, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: XFY. Performed the experiments: MH ZO BT HX. Analyzed the data: AM MVN MG. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JP MG. Wrote the paper: XFY MH BT.

                This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
                Page count
                Pages: 15
                Research Article
                Infectious Diseases

                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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