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This content will become publicly available on February 23, 2023

Title: Cellular and immunological mechanisms influence host-adapted phenotypes in a vector-borne microparasite
Predicting pathogen emergence and spillover risk requires understanding the determinants of a pathogens' host range and the traits involved in host competence. While host competence is often considered a fixed species-specific trait, it may be variable if pathogens diversify across hosts. Balancing selection can lead to maintenance of pathogen polymorphisms (multiple-niche-polymorphism; MNP). The causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi ( Bb ), provides a model to study the evolution of host adaptation, as some Bb strains defined by their outer surface protein C ( ospC ) genotype, are widespread in white-footed mice and others are associated with non-rodent vertebrates (e.g. birds). To identify the mechanisms underlying potential strain × host adaptation, we infected American robins and white-footed mice, with three Bb strains of different ospC genotypes. Bb burdens varied by strain in a host-dependent fashion, and strain persistence in hosts largely corresponded to Bb survival at early infection stages and with transmission to larvae (i.e. fitness). Early survival phenotypes are associated with cell adhesion, complement evasion and/or inflammatory and antibody-mediated removal of Bb, suggesting directional selective pressure for host adaptation and the potential role of MNP in maintaining OspC diversity. Our findings will guide future investigations to inform eco-evolutionary more » models of host adaptation for microparasites. « less
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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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