When the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, transfers from a feeding tick into a human or other vertebrate host, the bacterium produces vertebrate-specific proteins and represses factors needed for arthropod colonization. Previous studies determined that the B. burgdorferi BpuR protein binds to its own mRNA and autoregulates its translation, and also serves as co-repressor of erp transcription. Here, we demonstrate that B. burgdorferi controls transcription of bpuR, expressing high levels of bpuR during tick colonization but significantly less during mammalian infection. The master regulator of chromosomal replication, DnaA, was found to bind specifically to a DNA sequence that overlaps the bpuR promoter. Cultured B. burgdorferi that were genetically manipulated to produce elevated levels of BpuR exhibited altered levels of several proteins, although BpuR did not impact mRNA levels. Among these was the SodA superoxide dismutase, which is essential for mammalian infection. BpuR bound to sodA mRNA in live B. burgdorferi, and a specific BpuR-binding site was mapped 5′ of the sodA open reading frame. Recognition of posttranscriptional regulation of protein levels by BpuR adds another layer to our understanding of the B. burgdorferi regulome, and provides further evidence that bacterial protein levels do not always correlate directly with mRNA levels.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology