Borrelia burgdorferi is a pathogenic spirochete which cycles between its arthropod vector and vertebrate host. If transmitted to humans, B. burgdorferi causes Lyme disease, an infection which can impair different organs, such as the skin, joints, nervous system and heart. Alterations in protein expression due to the different environments Borrelia encounters during its complicated life cycle require advanced adaptation mechanisms. The outer surface-exposed proteins play a critical role in survival and pathogenesis of Borrelia in different hosts and tissues, being involved in avoiding the host immune response, adhesion to different tissues and nutrient acquisition. This thesis aimed to characterize integral outer membrane proteins which play a role in solute and nutrient uptake, and provides support for their role in the environmental adaptation of Borrelia.
In this thesis, three B. burgdorferi proteins, P13, BBA01 and P66, were shown to be porins, and characterized structurally and functionally using a combination of biochemical, biophysical and genetic methods. The channel-forming function of the 13 kDa protein, P13, was elucidated by a lipid bilayer assay. Post-translational processing of P13 occurred at the C-terminus by C-terminal processing protease (CtpA)-dependent cleavage. The membrane-spanning architecture of P13 was determined by epitope mapping and computer-based structural predictions which revealed that P13 is an unusual porin, not possessing the structural properties of conventional porins: rather than forming β-barrels, it is predicted to span the membrane with hydrophobic α-helices.
p13 belongs to a paralogous gene family. The transcription of p13 and other gene family members during in vitro growth and in a mouse infection model was therefore investigated. The paralog BBA01, which has the highest sequence homology to P13, is expressed during in vitro growth in all three Lyme disease causing species, although at very low levels. Like P13, BBA01 is also processed by CtpA and exhibits very similar channel-forming activity. Furthermore, in the absence of P13, a proportion of total BBA01 protein is relocated to the bacterial surface with strong indications that BBA01 and P13 are functionally interchangeable.
P66, an integrin binding protein, was also determined to be a porin. The oligomeric state of native P66, elucidated by chemical cross-linking, indicated that P66 forms trimers, as do the majority of conventional porins. Electron crystallography and a projection map of P66 crystals at 2.2 nm resolution revealed tetragonal unit cell symmetry with the area intercalated between the assembled protein structures consistent with the approximate expected size of the channel formed by P66. Finally, the biological relevance of two porins, P13 and P66, was demonstrated in a double mutant displaying a stress response as revealed by increased sensitivity to high osmolarity and elevated expression of the B. burgdorferi heat-shock protein HtrA homolog.
Umeå: Molekylärbiologi , 2006. , 84 p.