Motor Rotation Is Essential for the Formation of the Periplasmic Flagellar Ribbon, Cellular Morphology, and Borrelia burgdorferi Persistence within Ixodes scapularis Tick and Murine Hosts Article (Web of Science)


  • ABSTRACT Borrelia burgdorferi must migrate within and between its arthropod and mammalian hosts in order to complete its natural enzootic cycle. During tick feeding, the spirochete transmits from the tick to the host dermis, eventually colonizing and persisting within multiple, distant tissues. This dissemination modality suggests that flagellar motor rotation and, by extension, motility are crucial for infection. We recently reported that a nonmotile flaB mutant that lacks periplasmic flagella is rod shaped and unable to infect mice by needle or tick bite. However, those studies could not differentiate whether motor rotation or merely the possession of the periplasmic flagella was crucial for cellular morphology and host persistence. Here, we constructed and characterized a motB mutant that is nonmotile but retains its periplasmic flagella. Even though Δ motB bacteria assembled flagella, part of the mutant cell is rod shaped. Cryoelectron tomography revealed that the flagellar ribbons are distorted in the mutant cells, indicating that motor rotation is essential for spirochetal flat-wave morphology. The Δ motB cells are unable to infect mice, survive in the vector, or migrate out of the tick. Coinfection studies determined that the presence of these nonmotile Δ motB cells has no effect on the clearance of wild-type spirochetes during murine infection and vice versa. Together, our data demonstrate that while flagellar motor rotation is necessary for spirochetal morphology and motility, the periplasmic flagella display no additional properties related to immune clearance and persistence within relevant hosts.


  • Sultan, Syed Z.
  • Sekar, Padmapriya
  • Zhao, Xiaowei
  • Manne, Akarsh
  • Liu, Jun
  • Wooten, Ronald M
  • Motaleb, M. A.

publication date

  • 2015

published in

number of pages

  • 12

start page

  • 1765

end page

  • 1777


  • 83


  • 5