Year of Publication

2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Medicine

Department

Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Dr. Brian Stevenson

Abstract

Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, exists in a defined enzootic cycle involving Ixodes scapularis ticks and various vertebrates. Humans can serve as an accidental host, if a tick colonized with B. burgdorferi happens to feed on a human. B. burgdorferi are also accidental pathogens: they do not make toxins, or destroy host tissue by other mechanisms. They merely transmit between vector and host to survive. In order to do this, they must effectively sense their current environment, and appropriately alter cellular processes. Understanding the regulatory mechanisms of how B. burgdorferi manages to do this has been a focus of the Stevenson lab for many years.

Previous work identified SpoVG as a DNA-binding protein. Although a homologue of this protein had been implicated to serve a regulatory role in other bacteria, the Stevenson lab was the first to demonstrate a function for the protein, both for B. burgdorferi and two other bacteria. Studies contained in this body of work aim to provide insight into regulation of SpoVG by B. burgdorferi as well the impact that it has on gene regulation.

By using genetic mutants, we determined that SpoVG is regulated at the levels of transcription and translation in culture by growth rate, temperature, and other regulatory factors. Additionally, we provide evidence that SpoVG regulates its own expression. Numerous genes are under control of SpoVG. Biochemical analyses revealed that SpoVG specifically interacts with DNAs and RNAs associated with genes found to be under its regulatory control. Finally, we provide evidence for SpoVG acting in concert with other known regulatory factors such as other DNA-binding proteins and the cyclic di-nucleotide second messengers cyclic-di-GMP and cyclic-di-AMP.

All together, these studies provide insight into how B. burgdorferi broadly regulates cellular processes during different stages of the enzootic cycle. We hypothesize that SpoVG does this through globally manipulating the three-dimensional structure of the bacterial chromosome, and that exactly how SpoVG acts at any given point will be dependent on the other regulatory factors that are also present in the cell.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2019.372

Available for download on Thursday, September 17, 2020

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