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Mol Microbiol. 2011 Jul;81(1):259-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2011.07691.x. Epub 2011 May 19.

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

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Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 903 South 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


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.

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