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Role of Borrelia burgdorferi linear plasmid 25 in infection of Ixodes scapularis ticks.

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Abstract

The tick-borne bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi has over 20 different circular and linear plasmids. Some B. burgdorferi plasmids are readily lost during in vitro culture or genetic manipulation. Linear plasmid 25, which is often lost in laboratory strains, is required for the infection of mice. Strains missing linear plasmid 25 (lp25(-)) are able to infect mice if the BBE22 gene on lp25 is provided on a shuttle vector. In this study, we examined the role of lp25 and BBE22 in tick infections. We tested the hypothesis that complementation with BBE22 in spirochetes lacking lp25 would restore the ability of spirochetes to infect ticks. A natural tick infection cycle was performed by feeding larvae on mice injected with the parental, lp25(-), or lp25(-) BBE22-complemented spirochete strains. In addition, larvae and nymphs were artificially infected with different strains to study tick infections independent of mouse infections. B. burgdorferi missing lp25 was significantly impaired in its ability to infect larval and nymphal ticks. When an lp25(-) strain was complemented with BBE22, the ability to infect ticks was partially restored. Complementation with BBE22 allowed spirochetes lacking lp25 to establish short-term infections in ticks, but in most cases the infection prevalence was lower than that of the wild-type strain. In addition, the number of infected ticks decreased over time, suggesting that another gene(s) on lp25 is required for long-term persistence in ticks and completion of a natural infection cycle.

J Bacteriol. 2005 Aug;187(16):5776-81. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

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