Life cycle alternation between arthropod and mammals forces the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, to adapt to different host milieus by utilizing diverse carbohydrates. Glycerol and chitobiose are abundantly present in the Ixodes tick. B. burgdorferi can utilize glycerol as a carbohydrate source for glycolysis and chitobiose to produce N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), a key component of the bacterial cell wall. A recent study reported that Rrp1, a response regulator that synthesizes cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP), governs glycerol utilization in B. burgdorferi. In this report, we found that the rrp1 mutant had growth defects and formed membrane blebs that led to cell lysis when GlcNAc was replaced by chitobiose in the growth medium. The gene chbC encodes a key chitobiose transporter of B. burgdorferi. We found that the expression level of chbC was significantly repressed in the mutant and that constitutive expression of chbC in the mutant successfully rescued the growth defect, indicating a regulatory role of Rrp1 in chitobiose uptake. Immunoblotting and transcriptional studies revealed that Rrp1 is required for the activation of bosR and rpoS and that its impact on chbC is most likely mediated by the BosR-RpoS regulatory pathway. Tick-mouse infection studies showed that although the rrp1 mutant failed to establish infection in mice via tick bite, exogenous supplementation of GlcNAc into unfed ticks partially rescued the infection. The finding reported here provides us with new insight into the regulatory role of Rrp1 in carbohydrate utilization and virulence of B. burgdorferi.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases