The Journal of biological chemistry

Borrelia burgdorferi, a pathogen that lacks iron, encodes manganese-dependent superoxide dismutase essential for resistance to streptonigrin.

PMID 22500025


Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, exists in nature through a complex life cycle involving ticks of the Ixodes genus and mammalian hosts. During its life cycle, B. burgdorferi experiences fluctuations in oxygen tension and may encounter reactive oxygen species (ROS). The key metalloenzyme to degrade ROS in B. burgdorferi is SodA. Although previous work suggests that B. burgdorferi SodA is an iron-dependent superoxide dismutase (SOD), later work demonstrates that B. burgdorferi is unable to transport iron and contains an extremely low intracellular concentration of iron. Consequently, the metal cofactor for SodA has been postulated to be manganese. However, experimental evidence to support this hypothesis remains lacking. In this study, we provide biochemical and genetic data showing that SodA is a manganese-dependent enzyme. First, B. burgdorferi contained SOD activity that is resistant to H(2)O(2) and NaCN, characteristics associated with Mn-SODs. Second, the addition of manganese to the Chelex-treated BSK-II enhanced SodA expression. Third, disruption of the manganese transporter gene bmtA, which significantly lowers the intracellular manganese, greatly reduced SOD activity and SodA expression, suggesting that manganese regulates the level of SodA. In addition, we show that B. burgdorferi is resistant to streptonigrin, a metal-dependent redox cycling compound that produces ROS, and that SodA plays a protective role against the streptonigrin. Taken together, our data demonstrate the Lyme disease spirochete encodes a manganese-dependent SOD that contributes to B. burgdorferi defense against intracellular superoxide.