Nitrosative damage to free and zinc-bound cysteine thiols underlies nitric oxide toxicity in wild-type Borrelia burgdorferi

Travis J. Bourret, Julie A. Boylan, Kevin A. Lawrence, Frank C. Gherardini

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38 Scopus citations


Borrelia burgdorferi encounters potentially harmful reactive nitrogen species (RNS) throughout its infective cycle. In this study, diethylamine NONOate (DEA/NO) was used to characterize the lethal effects of RNS on B. burgdorferi. RNS produce a variety of DNA lesions in a broad spectrum of microbial pathogens; however, levels of the DNA deamination product, deoxyinosine, and the numbers of apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) sites were identical in DNA isolated from untreated and DEA/NO-treated B. burgdorferi cells. Strains with mutations in the nucleotide excision repair (NER) pathway genes uvrC or uvrB treated with DEA/NO had significantly higher spontaneous mutation frequencies, increased numbers of AP sites in DNA and reduced survival compared with wild-type controls. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in B. burgdorferi cell membranes, which are susceptible to peroxidation by reactive oxygen species (ROS), were not sensitive to RNS-mediated lipid peroxidation. However, treatment of B. burgdorferi cells with DEA/NO resulted in nitrosative damage to several proteins, including the zinc-dependent glycolytic enzyme fructose-1,6-bisphosphate aldolase (BB0445), the Borrelia oxidative stress regulator (BosR) and neutrophil-activating protein (NapA). Collectively, these data suggested that nitrosative damage to proteins harbouring free or zinc-bound cysteine thiols, rather than DNA or membrane lipids underlies RNS toxicity in wild-type B. burgdorferi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-273
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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