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Borrelia burgdorferi needs chemotaxis to establish infection in mammals and to accomplish its... - Abstract - Europe PMC

Borrelia burgdorferi needs chemotaxis to establish infection in mammals and to accomplish its enzootic cycle.

Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, can be recovered from different organs of infected animals and patients, indicating that the spirochete is very invasive. Motility and chemotaxis contribute to the invasiveness of B. burgdorferi and play important roles in the process of the disease. Recent reports have shown that motility is required for establishing infection in mammals. However, the role of chemotaxis in virulence remains elusive. Our previous studies showed that cheA₂, a gene encoding a histidine kinase, is essential for the chemotaxis of B. burgdorferi. In this report, the cheA₂ gene was inactivated in a low-passage-number virulent strain of B. burgdorferi. In vitro analyses (microscopic observations, computer-based bacterial tracking analysis, swarm plate assays, and capillary tube assays) showed that the cheA₂ mutant failed to reverse and constantly ran in one direction; the mutant was nonchemotactic to attractants. Mouse needle infection studies showed that the cheA₂ mutant failed to infect either immunocompetent or immunodeficient mice and was quickly eliminated from the initial inoculation sites. Tick-mouse infection studies revealed that although the mutant was able to survive in ticks, it failed to establish a new infection in mice via tick bites. The altered phenotypes were completely restored when the mutant was complemented. Collectively, these data demonstrate that B. burgdorferi needs chemotaxis to establish mammalian infection and to accomplish its natural enzootic cycle.
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