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Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete that causes Lyme disease, differentially regulates synthesis of the outer membrane lipoprotein OspC to infect its host. OspC is required to establish infection but then repressed in the mammal to avoid clearance by the adaptive immune response. Inverted repeats (IR) upstream of the promoter have been implicated as an operator to regulate ospC expression. We molecularly dissected the distal inverted repeat (dIR) of the ospC operator by site-directed mutagenesis at its endogenous location on the circular plasmid cp26. We found that disrupting the dIR but maintaining the proximal IR prevented induction of OspC synthesis by DNA supercoiling, temperature, and pH. Moreover, the base-pairing potential of the two halves of the dIR was more important than the nucleotide sequence in controlling OspC levels. These results describe a cis-acting element essential for the expression of the virulence factor OspC.




This work was supported by Public Health Service grants AI051486 to D.S.S. and P20 GM103546 to the Center for Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics from the National Institutes of Health. L.L.H.-H. was supported by a Watkins Scholarship from The University of Montana, an Undergraduate Research Internship through the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program under Grant EPS-0701906, an Undergraduate Research Award from the Davidson Honors College, and an Honors Fellowship through the Montana Integrative Learning Experience for Students (MILES) program under Grant 52005905 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Undergraduate Science Education Program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


© 2013 Drecktrah et al.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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Drecktrah D, Hall LS, Hoon-Hanks LL, Samuels DS (2013) An Inverted Repeat in the ospC Operator Is Required for Induction in Borrelia burgdorferi. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68799. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068799

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