Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2014 Jun 30;9(6):e101009. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101009. eCollection 2014.

Population bottlenecks during the infectious cycle of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi.

Author information

Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana, United States of America.
Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice, Czech Republic; Institute of Parasitology, ASCR, Biology Centre, České Budějovice, Czech Republic.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2014;9(9):e108612.


Borrelia burgdorferi is a zoonotic pathogen whose maintenance in nature depends upon an infectious cycle that alternates between a tick vector and mammalian hosts. Lyme disease in humans results from transmission of B. burgdorferi by the bite of an infected tick. The population dynamics of B. burgdorferi throughout its natural infectious cycle are not well understood. We addressed this topic by assessing the colonization, dissemination and persistence of B. burgdorferi within and between the disparate mammalian and tick environments. To follow bacterial populations during infection, we generated seven isogenic but distinguishable B. burgdorferi clones, each with a unique sequence tag. These tags resulted in no phenotypic changes relative to wild type organisms, yet permitted highly sensitive and specific detection of individual clones by PCR. We followed the composition of the spirochete population throughout an experimental infectious cycle that was initiated with a mixed inoculum of all clones. We observed heterogeneity in the spirochete population disseminating within mice at very early time points, but all clones displayed the ability to colonize most mouse tissues by 3 weeks of infection. The complexity of clones subsequently declined as murine infection persisted. Larval ticks typically acquired a reduced and variable number of clones relative to what was present in infected mice at the time of tick feeding, and maintained the same spirochete population through the molt to nymphs. However, only a random subset of infectious spirochetes was transmitted to naïve mice when these ticks next fed. Our results clearly demonstrate that the spirochete population experiences stochastic bottlenecks during both acquisition and transmission by the tick vector, as well as during persistent infection of its murine host. The experimental system that we have developed can be used to further explore the forces that shape the population of this vector-borne bacterial pathogen throughout its infectious cycle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center