Brissette Named Co-Investigator on R01
Catherine Brissette, Ph.D., an associate professor in UND's Biomedical Sciences Department, has been named Co-Investigator on a R01 grant awarded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The 4-year award is titled, "SpoVG and PlzA Regulation of Lyme Disease Spirochete Infection Processes."
"Bacterial infections require that the pathogen accurately produce essential factors at appropriate levels during each stage of infection processes. Understanding how bacteria control levels of their proteins in response to cues from their hosts provides important insights on microbial infectious properties. Such knowledge can also reveal new targets for improved preventative and curative therapies. The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, survives in nature through cycles of infecting vertebrates and ticks. The CDC calculates that there are approximately 300,000 new cases of human Lyme disease in the USA each year. B. burgdorferi can persistently infect immunocompetent humans for many years. Failure to treat Lyme disease promptly can result in persistent debilitating effects or, sometimes, death. In order to better treat Lyme disease, it is critical to develop a more thorough understanding of B. burgdorferi biology, including the mechanisms by which the spirochete controls production of virulence factors. We discovered that a borrelial protein, SpoVG, binds with specificity and high affinity to DNA and RNA. Deletion of spoVG significantly impaired B. burgdorferi’s ability to colonize ticks and be transmitted from ticks to mammals. Dysregulation of spoVG transcription caused significant changes in bacterial physiology. These preliminary data stemmed from long standing collaborations between the P.I. (Brian Stevenson, University of Kentucky) and co-investigators (Catherine Brissette, UND; Wolfram Zuekert, University of Kansas, Md. Motaleb, Eastern Carolina University, and Paula Schlax, Bates College), of this proposal. Our combined efforts will yield a comprehensive view of the mechanisms through which B. burgdorferi controls production of these critical regulatory factors. Results of the planned investigations will provide substantial insight on infectious properties of B. burgdorferi, and will identify key checkpoints that can be exploited for development of improved antibacterial therapies."