NYMC Faculty Publications

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PLoS One

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Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Second Department

Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology


The bacterial stringent response is triggered by deficiencies of available nutrients and other environmental stresses. It is mediated by 5'-triphosphate-guanosine-3'-diphosphate and 5'-diphosphate-guanosine-3'-diphosphate (collectively (p)ppGpp) and generates global changes in gene expression and metabolism that enable bacteria to adapt to and survive these challenges. Borrelia burgdorferi encounters multiple stressors in its cycling between ticks and mammals that could trigger the stringent response. We have previously shown that the B. burgdorferi stringent response is mediated by a single enzyme, RelBbu, with both (p)ppGpp synthase and hydrolase activities, and that a B. burgdorferi 297 relBbu null deletion mutant was defective in adapting to stationary phase, incapable of down-regulating synthesis of rRNA and could not infect mice. We have now used this deletion mutant and microarray analysis to identify genes comprising the rel regulon in B. burgdorferi cultured at 34 degrees C, and found that transcription of genes involved in glycerol metabolism is induced by relBbu. Culture of the wild type parental strain, the relBbu deletion mutant and its complemented derivative at 34 degrees C and 25 degrees C in media containing glucose or glycerol as principal carbon sources revealed a growth defect in the mutant, most evident at the lower temperature. Transcriptional analysis of the glp operon for glycerol uptake and metabolism in these three strains confirmed that relBbu was necessary and sufficient to increase transcription of this operon in the presence of glycerol at both temperatures. These results confirm and extend previous findings regarding the stringent response in B. burgdorferi. They also demonstrate that the stringent response regulates glycerol metabolism in this organism and is likely crucial for its optimal growth in ticks.


Correction: Characterization of the RelBbuRegulon in Borrelia burgdorferi Reveals Modulation of Glycerol Metabolism by (p)ppGpp. PLOS ONE 10(3): e0123614. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0123614

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.