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Borrelia burgdorferi is the etiologic agent of
Lyme disease, the most prevalent arthropod-borne
disease in the United States. The genome of the type strain, B31, consists of a 910,725-bp linear chromosome and 21 linear and circular plasmids comprising 610,694 bp. During its life cycle, the spirochete exists in distinctly different environments, cycling between a tick vector and a mammalian host. Temperature is one environmental factor known to affect B. burgdorferi gene expression. To identify temperature-responsive genes, genome arrays containing 1,662 putative B. burgdorferi open reading frames (ORFs) were prepared on nylon membranes and employed to assess gene expression in B. burgdorferi B31 grown at 23 and 35 degrees C. Differences in expression of more than 3.5 orders of magnitude could be readily discerned and quantitated. At least minimal expression from 91% of the arrayed ORFs could be detected. A total of 215 ORFs were differentially expressed at the two temperatures; 133 were expressed at significantly greater levels at 35 degrees C, and 82 were more significantly expressed at 23 degrees C. Of these 215 ORFs, 134 are characterized as genes of unknown function. One hundred thirty-six (63%) of the differentially expressed genes are plasmid encoded. Of particular interest is plasmid lp54 which contains 76 annotated putative genes; 31 of these exhibit temperature-regulated expression. These findings underscore the important role plasmid-encoded genes may play in adjustment of B. burgdorferi to growth under diverse environmental conditions.