How a tick gut gene serves as a gateway for Lyme disease

How a tick gut gene serves as a gateway for Lyme disease
In the gut of ticks lacking the PIXR gene function (right) more biofilm forms to block Lyme disease infection compared to a control gut (left). Credit: Yale University

The bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, may have some help from a gene found in the guts of infected ticks, according to a new study led by Yale researchers and published in Nature Communications.

The research team identified a number of tick gut genes that demonstrated enhanced expression when infected by B. burgdorferi. One of those genes secretes a protein known as PIXR. When the researchers blocked the gene's function in ticks, colonization of the tick gut by the Lyme bacterium—a key step in sustaining infection prevalence in ticks—was limited. In the guts of ticks lacking PIXR, the researchers also observed changes in , gut metabolites, and gut immune responses. The changes included an increase in bacterial biofilm, or microorganisms that potentially form a sticky barrier to infection.

The findings suggest that the guts of ticks actively manage the microbes in their environment, turning that environment into a "barricade" or "gateway" to infection depending on the bacteria that dominate.


Explore further

Key to Lyme disease's locale may be found in the gut of a tick

More information: Sukanya Narasimhan et al. Modulation of the tick gut milieu by a secreted tick protein favors Borrelia burgdorferi colonization, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00208-0
Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by Yale University
Citation: How a tick gut gene serves as a gateway for Lyme disease (2017, August 7) retrieved 18 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-gut-gene-gateway-lyme-disease.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
3 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more