Lyme disease is the leading tick-borne bacterial disease in the world resulting in greater than 30,000 cases per year in the US alone. Lyme disease is caused by tick-bite transmission of the pathogenic spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. An increased understanding of the molecular mechanisms that B. burgdorferi uses to survive throughout its infectious cycle is critical for the development of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic protocols to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease. One of the major difficulties blocking this effort has been genome-wide identification of the B. burgdorferi genes that are expressed in the mammalian host environment. Using in vivo expression technology (IVET) in B. burgdorferi for the first time we have identified B. burgdorferi genes that are expressed during an active mammalian infection. The in vivo-expressed candidate genes putatively encode proteins in various functional categories including antigenicity, metabolism, motility, nutrient transport and unknown functions.
In addition to identifying promoters corresponding to annotated genes, our screen has identified in vivo-expressed transcripts that map within genes and on the antisense strand relative to annotated genes. We predict that some of these DNA sequences may represent promoters for regulatory RNAs. Research in our laboratory is directed at understanding B. burgdorferi infection mechanisms through genetic, biochemical and in vivo analyses of unique in vivo-expressed genes. Furthermore, because accurate diagnosis is currently the greatest challenge for the clinical management of Lyme disease my lab is focused on development of a simplified, objective and sensitive approach for the detection of B. burgdorferi antibodies in infected patients.
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- Bestor A, Stewart PE, Jewett MW, Sarkar A, Tilly K and Rosa PA. 2010. Using the Cre-lox recombination system to investigate lp54 gene requirement in the infectious cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi. Infect. Immun. 78(6):2397-407.
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