Caister Academic Press

CIMB Abstract

Curr. Issues Mol. Biol. (2021) 42: 97-112.
https://doi.org/10.21775/cimb.042.097

Evolutionary Genetics of Borrelia

Zachary J. Oppler, Kayleigh R. O'Keeffe, Karen D. McCoy and Dustin Brisson

The genus Borrelia consists of evolutionarily and genetically diverse bacterial species that cause a variety of diseases in humans and domestic animals. These vector-borne spirochetes can be classified into two major evolutionary groups, the Lyme borreliosis clade and the relapsing fever clade, both of which have complex transmission cycles during which they interact with multiple host species and arthropod vectors. Molecular, ecological, and evolutionary studies have each provided significant contributions towards our understanding of the natural history, biology and evolutionary genetics of Borrelia species; however, integration of these studies is required to identify the evolutionary causes and consequences of the genetic variation within and among Borrelia species. For example, molecular and genetic studies have identified the adaptations that maximize fitness components throughout the Borrelia lifecycle and enhance transmission efficacy but provide limited insights into the evolutionary pressures that have produced them. Ecological studies can identify interactions between Borrelia species and the vertebrate hosts and arthropod vectors they encounter and the resulting impact on the geographic distribution and abundance of spirochetes but not the genetic or molecular basis underlying these interactions. In this review we discuss recent findings on the evolutionary genetics from both of the evolutionarily distinct clades of Borrelia species. We focus on connecting molecular interactions to the ecological processes that have driven the evolution and diversification of Borrelia species in order to understand the current distribution of genetic and molecular variation within and between Borrelia species.

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