Decorin-binding proteins B and A (DbpB and DbpA) are thought to play important roles in Borrelia burgdorferi pathogenesis by serving as adhesins for the extracellular matrix. It has been established that the expression of DbpBA is governed by the Rrp2-RpoN-RpoS regulatory pathway. However, the precise mechanism underlying the control of DbpBA expression has been unclear. In particular, it has been unknown whether RpoS influences DbpBA expression directly or indirectly (through an additional regulatory molecule[s]). Here, employing a wild-type B. burgdorferi strain and a dbpBA-deficient mutant, we analyzed the 5′ genetic elements of the dbpBA operon using deletion analysis, coupled with luciferase reporter assays, quantitative reverse transcription PCR, and immunoblot analyses. A minimal promoter, encompassed within 70 bp upstream of the ATG start codon of dbpBA, was identified and found to be necessary and sufficient to initiate dbpBA transcription. The minimal dbpBA promoter was responsive to environmental stimuli such as temperature, pH, and whole blood. Two in silico-identified inverted repeat elements were not involved in the response of dbpBA expression to in vitro stimulation by environmental factors. The expression of dbpBA from the minimal promoter was abolished when rpoS was inactivated. In addition, the targeted mutagenesis of a C at position -14 within the extended -10 region of dbpBA, which has been postulated to be strategic for EσS binding in Escherichia coli, abolished dbpBA expression in B. burgdorferi. These combined data suggest that the Rrp2-RpoN-RpoS pathway controls dbpBA expression by the direct binding of RpoS to an RpoS-dependent promoter. However, given that there remains a distinct difference between the expression of DbpBA and other genes under the direct control of RpoS (e.g., OspC), our findings do not preclude the existence of another layer of gene regulation that may contribute to the modulation of DbpBA expression via an as-yet unknown mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology