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The causal agents of Lyme disease in North America, Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii, are transmitted primarily by Ixodes scapularis ticks. Due to their limited metabolic capacity, spirochetes rely on the tick blood meal for nutrients and metabolic intermediates while residing in the tick vector, competing with the tick for nutrients in the blood meal.
Metabolomics is an effective methodology to explore dynamics of spirochete survival and multiplication in tick vectors before transmission to a vertebrate host via tick saliva. Using gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, we identified statistically significant differences in the metabolic profile among uninfected I. scapularis nymphal ticks, B. burgdorferi-infected nymphal ticks and B. mayonii-infected nymphal ticks by measuring metabolism every 24?hours over the course of their up to 96?hour blood meals.
Specifically, differences in the abundance of purines, amino acids, carbohydrates, and fatty acids during the blood meal among the three groups of nymphal ticks suggest that B. mayonii and B. burgdorferi may have different metabolic capabilities, especially during later stages of nymphal feeding.
Understanding mechanisms underlying variable metabolic requirements of different Lyme disease spirochetes within tick vectors could potentially aid development of novel methods to control spirochete transmission.
Source: By Hoxmeier JC1, Fleshman AC1, Broeckling CD2, Prenni JE2, Dolan MC1, Gage KL1, Eisen L1. Metabolomics of the tick-Borrelia interaction during the nymphal tick blood meal. Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 13;7:44394. doi: 10.1038/srep44394.