Whole Genome Sequencing of Human Borrelia Burgdorferi Isolates Reveals Linked Blocks of Accessory Genome Elements Located on Plasmids and Associated With Human Dissemination
Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in North America and Europe. The clinical manifestations of Lyme disease vary based on the genospecies of the infecting Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete, but the microbial genetic elements underlying these associations are not known. Here, we report the whole genome sequence (WGS) and analysis of 299 B. burgdorferi (Bb) isolates derived from patients in the Eastern and Midwestern US and Central Europe. We develop a WGS-based classification of Bb isolates, confirm and extend the findings of previous single- and multi-locus typing systems, define the plasmid profiles of human-infectious Bb isolates, annotate the core and strain-variable surface lipoproteome, and identify loci associated with disseminated infection. A core genome consisting of ~900 open reading frames and a core set of plasmids consisting of lp17, lp25, lp36, lp28-3, lp28-4, lp54, and cp26 are found in nearly all isolates. Strain-variable (accessory) plasmids and genes correlate strongly with phylogeny. Using genetic association study methods, we identify an accessory genome signature associated with dissemination in humans and define the individual plasmids and genes that make up this signature. Strains within the RST1/WGS A subgroup, particularly a subset marked by the OspC type A genotype, have increased rates of dissemination in humans. OspC type A strains possess a unique set of strongly linked genetic elements including the presence of lp56 and lp28-1 plasmids and a cluster of genes that may contribute to their enhanced virulence compared to other genotypes. These features of OspC type A strains reflect a broader paradigm across Bb isolates, in which near-clonal genotypes are defined by strain-specific clusters of linked genetic elements, particularly those encoding surface-exposed lipoproteins. These clusters of genes are maintained by strain-specific patterns of plasmid occupancy and are associated with the probability of invasive infection.
Lemieux, J. E., Huang, W., Hill, N., Cerar, T., Freimark, L., Hernandez, S., Luban, M., Maraspin, V., Bogovič, P., Ogrinc, K., Ruzič-Sabljič, E., Lapierre, P., Lasek-Nesselquist, E., Singh, N., Iyer, R., Liveris, D., Reed, K. D., Leong, J. M., Branda, J. A., Steere, A. C., Wormser, G. P., Strle, F., Sabeti, P. C., Schwartz, I., & Strle, K. (2023). Whole Genome Sequencing of Human Borrelia Burgdorferi Isolates Reveals Linked Blocks of Accessory Genome Elements Located on Plasmids and Associated With Human Dissemination. PLOS Pathogens, 19 (8), e1011243. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1011243