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We have mapped the genes encoding the antigenic lipoproteins OspE and OspF to an approximately 18-kb circular plasmid in Borrelia burgdorferi N40. Sequencing and restriction mapping have revealed that this plasmid, cp18, is homologous to an 18-kb region of the cp32 circular plasmids found in the
Lyme disease spirochetes. Our data show that cp18 may have arisen from an ancestral cp32 plasmid by deletion of a 14-kb region of DNA, indicating that a significant portion of the cp32 plasmid is not essential in cis for plasmid maintenance. These findings suggest that a relatively small recombinant plasmid capable of being stably maintained in B. burgdorferi could be constructed from a cp32 plasmid.