Two major glycolipids, which comprise approximately 36% of the total lipid mass from Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiological agent of
Lyme disease, were investigated. We determined the fatty acid type, sugar identity, anomeric configuration, and substituent type and position. The structures were identified as cholesteryl 6-O-acyl-beta-d-galactopyranoside (B. burgdorferi glycolipid 1, BbGL-I), and 1,2-di-O-acyl-3-O-alpha-d-galactopyranosyl-sn-glycerol (BbGL-II). The major fatty acids were palmitate and oleate. The structures were corroborated by gas-liquid chromatography MS, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight spectroscopy, fast atom bombardment MS, detailed NMR spectrometry, and metabolic labeling. This is a previously undescribed demonstration of a cholesteryl galactoside in bacteria. Lipopolysaccharide was not detected in B. burgdorferi. The two glycolipids have several properties suggesting they may function as lipopolysaccharide: both are main components of the bacterial membrane, surface exposed, and have a three-domain structure. BbGL-I elicited specific antibodies in mice and rabbits, and BbGL-II elicited antibodies that reacted with both glycolipids.