Characterization of 6S RNA in the Lyme disease spirochete

Dan Drecktrah, Laura S. Hall, Amanda J. Brinkworth, Jeanette R. Comstock, Karen M. Wassarman, D. Scott Samuels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


6S RNA binds to RNA polymerase and regulates gene expression, contributing to bacterial adaptation to environmental stresses. In this study, we examined the role of 6S RNA in murine infectivity and tick persistence of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia (Borreliella) burgdorferi. B. burgdorferi 6S RNA (Bb6S RNA) binds to RNA polymerase, is expressed independent of growth phase or nutrient stress in culture, and is processed by RNase Y. We found that rny (bb0504), the gene encoding RNase Y, is essential for B. burgdorferi growth, while ssrS, the gene encoding 6S RNA, is not essential, indicating a broader role for RNase Y activity in the spirochete. Bb6S RNA regulates expression of the ospC and dbpA genes encoding outer surface protein C and decorin binding protein A, respectively, which are lipoproteins important for host infection. The highest levels of Bb6S RNA are found when the spirochete resides in unfed nymphs. ssrS mutants lacking Bb6S RNA were compromised for infectivity by needle inoculation, but injected mice seroconverted, indicating an ability to activate the adaptive immune response. ssrS mutants were successfully acquired by larval ticks and persisted through fed nymphs. Bb6S RNA is one of the first regulatory RNAs identified in B. burgdorferi that controls the expression of lipoproteins involved in host infectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-417
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • 6S RNA
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Lyme disease
  • RNA
  • bacterial
  • gene expression regulation
  • small untranslated
  • spirochete


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