Department or Program



Lyme disease has become the most prominent vector-borne disease in the United States. The causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, cycles in between the tick vector and the vertebrate host during the infectious cycle. Changes in gene expression allow B. burgdorferi to adapt to these vastly different environments and are reflected in RNA levels, which are regulated by the rate of RNA transcription and degradation. Environmental cues can signal this gene expression adaptation. In particular, the milliosmolar environment of the tick midgut, where B. burgdorferi is found during the acquisition phase, is distinct from the osmolar environment of the vertebrate host, where B. burgdorferi is found after transmission. Certain virulence factors such as RpoN, RpoS, OspC, OspA and DbpA have been shown to be essential for the acquisition and transmission of B. burgdorferi, but their mRNA degradation pathways have not yet been characterized. In this study, mRNA decay in B. burgdorferi was investigated by arresting transcription, the synthesis of RNA from DNA, in cells cultured in three distinct milliosmolar environments, mimicking the tick vector and mammalian host. The time-dependent decay rates of the mRNA transcripts encoding these five virulence factors were studied using qRT-PCR. Preliminary results suggest that these transcripts may be differentially expressed but not degraded in different osmolar conditions, largely consistent with previous findings studying gene expression in B. burgdorferi. These results give a preliminary characterization of mRNA decay and gene regulation in B. burgdorferi.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Bates Community After Expiration]

First Advisor

Schlax, Paula

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file