D. Scott Samuels, Meghan C. Lybecker, X. Frank Yang, Zhiming Ouyang, Travis J. Bourret, William K. Boyle, Brian Stevenson, Dan Drecktrah and Melissa J. Caimano
, along with closely related species, is the etiologic agent of Lyme disease. The spirochete subsists in an enzootic cycle that encompasses acquisition from a vertebrate host to a tick vector and transmission from a tick vector to a vertebrate host. To adapt to its environment and persist in each phase of its enzootic cycle, B. burgdorferi
wields three systems to regulate the expression of genes: the RpoN-RpoS alternative sigma (σ) factor cascade, the Hk1/Rrp1 two-component system and its product c-di-GMP, and the stringent response mediated by RelBbu and DksA. These regulatory systems respond to enzootic phase-specific signals and are controlled or fine-tuned by transcription factors, including BosR and BadR, as well as small RNAs, including DsrABb
and Bb6S RNA. In addition, several other DNA-binding and RNA-binding proteins have been identified, although their functions have not all been defined. Global changes in gene expression revealed by high-throughput transcriptomic studies have elucidated various regulons, albeit technical obstacles have mostly limited this experimental approach to cultivated spirochetes. Regardless, we know that the spirochete, which carries a relatively small genome, regulates the expression of a considerable number of genes required for the transitions between the tick vector and the vertebrate host as well as the adaptation to each.