Borrelia - Genetics

Genetics

All members of the Borrelia genus that have been examined harbor a linear chromosome that is about 900 kbp in length as well as a plethora of both linear and circular plasmids in the 5-220 kbp size range. Genome sequences have been determined for B. burgdorferi, B. garinii, B. afzelii, B. duttonii and B. recurrentis. The chromosomes, which carry the vast majority of the housekeeping genes, appear to be very constant in gene content and organization across the genus. The content of the plasmids, which carry most of the genes that encode the differentially-expressed surface proteins that interact with Borrelia's arthropod and vertebrate hosts, are much more variable. B. burgdorferi strain B31, the B. burgdorferi type strain, has been studied in the most detail and harbors twelve linear and nine circular plasmids that comprise about 612 kbp. The plasmids are unusual, as compared to most bacterial plasmids, in that they contain many paralogous sequences, a large number of pseudogenes and, in some cases, essential genes. In addition, a number of the plasmids have features suggesting that they are prophages. Some correlations between genome content and pathogenicity have been deduced and comparative whole genome analyses promise future progress in this arena.

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