Phenotypic Alterations In Borrelia Burgdorferi And Implications For The Persister Cell Hypothesis
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. The causative agent of Lyme disease, can alter gene expression to enable survival in a diverse set of conditions, including the tick midgut and the mammalian host. External environmental changes can trigger gene expression in B. burgdorferi, and the data demonstrate that B. burgdorferi can similarly alter gene expression as a stress-response when it is treated with the antibiotic doxycycine. After treatment with the minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) of doxycycline, a subpopulation can alter its phenotype to survive antibiotic treatment, and to host adapt and successfully infect a mammalian host. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that if a population is treated with the MBC of doxycycline, a subpopulation may alter its phenotype to adopt a state of dormancy until the removal of the antibiotic, whereupon the subpopulation can regrow. We demonstrate that the chance of regrowth occurring increases as a population reaches stationary phase, and present a mathematical model for predicting the probability of a persister subpopulation within a larger population, and ascertain the quantity of a persister subpopulation. To determine which genes are expressed as stress-response genes, RNA Sequencing analysis, or RNASeq, was performed on treated, untreated, and treated and regrown B. burgdorferi samples. The results suggest several genes were significantly different in the treated group, compared to the untreated group, and in the untreated and regrown group compared to the untreated group, including a 50S ribosomal stress-response protein, coded from BB_0786. The appendices discuss the theory and methods that were used in RNA Sequencing (RNASeq) analysis, and provide an overview of the database that was created for the B. burgdorferi transcriptome. Additional studies may demonstrate further how persister subpopulations form, and which genes can trigger a persister state in B. burgdorferi.