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      Essential Role for OspA/B in the Life Cycle of the Lyme Disease Spirochete

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          The molecular basis of how Borrelia burgdorferi ( Bb), the Lyme disease spirochete, maintains itself in nature via a complex life cycle in ticks and mammals is poorly understood. Outer surface (lipo)protein A (OspA) of Bb has been the most intensively studied of all borrelial molecular constituents, and hence, much has been speculated about the potential role(s) of OspA in the life cycle of Bb. However, the precise function of OspA (along with that of its close relative and operonic partner, outer surface [lipo]protein B [OspB]) heretofore has not been directly determined, due primarily to the inability to generate an OspA/B-deficient mutant from a virulent strain of Bb. In this study, we created an OspA/B-deficient mutant of an infectious human isolate of Bb (strain 297) and found that OspA/B function was not required for either Bb infection of mice or accompanying tissue pathology. However, OspA/B function was essential for Bb colonization of and survival within tick midguts, events crucial for sustaining Bb in its natural enzootic life cycle.

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          Assays of isolated single sympathetic neurones show that their transmitter functions can be either adrenergic or cholinergic depending on growth conditions. The data suggest that the number of transmitters made by most mature individual neurones is restricted.
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            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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              Neuroscience. Developmental refining of neuroglial signaling?


                Author and article information

                J Exp Med
                The Journal of Experimental Medicine
                The Rockefeller University Press
                1 March 2004
                : 199
                : 5
                : 641-648
                [1 ]Department of Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390
                [2 ]Section of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520
                Author notes

                Address correspondence to Michael V. Norgard, Dept. of Microbiology, U.T. Southwestern Medical Center, 6000 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390-9048. Phone: (214) 648-5900; Fax: (214) 648-5905; email: michael.norgard@

                Copyright © 2004, The Rockefeller University Press


                borrelia burgdorferi, arthropod vector, lyme disease, ospa, lipoprotein


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