Coupled induction of prophage and virulence factors during tick transmission of the Lyme disease spirochete

Jenny Wachter, Britney Cheff, Chad Hillman, Valentina Carracoi, David W. Dorward, Craig Martens, Kent Barbian, Glenn Nardone, L. Renee Olano, Margie Kinnersley, Patrick R. Secor, Patricia A. Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The alternative sigma factor RpoS plays a central role in the critical host-adaptive response of the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. We previously identified bbd18 as a negative regulator of RpoS but could not inactivate bbd18 in wild-type spirochetes. In the current study we employed an inducible bbd18 gene to demonstrate the essential nature of BBD18 for viability of wild-type spirochetes in vitro and at a unique point in vivo. Transcriptomic analyses of BBD18-depleted cells demonstrated global induction of RpoS-dependent genes prior to lysis, with the absolute requirement for BBD18, both in vitro and in vivo, circumvented by deletion of rpoS. The increased expression of plasmid prophage genes and the presence of phage particles in the supernatants of lysing cultures indicate that RpoS regulates phage lysis-lysogeny decisions. Through this work we identify a mechanistic link between endogenous prophages and the RpoS-dependent adaptive response of the Lyme disease spirochete.

Original languageEnglish
Article number198
Pages (from-to)198
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 13 2023


  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins/metabolism
  • Borrelia burgdorferi/virology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Prophages/genetics
  • Sigma Factor/metabolism
  • Ticks/microbiology
  • Virulence Factors/metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions


Dive into the research topics of 'Coupled induction of prophage and virulence factors during tick transmission of the Lyme disease spirochete'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this