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Molecular genetic analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of
Lyme disease, has been hampered by the absence of any means of efficient generation, identification, and complementation of chromosomal and plasmid null gene mutants. The similarity of borrelial G + C content to that of Gram-positive organisms suggested that a wide-host-range plasmid active in Gram-positive bacteria might also be recognized by borrelial DNA replication machinery. One such plasmid, pGK12, is able to propagate in both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and carries erythromycin and chloramphenicol resistance markers. pGK12 propagated extrachromosomally in B. burgdorferi B31 after electroporation but conferred only erythromycin resistance. pGK12 was used to express enhanced green fluorescent protein in B31 under the control of the flaB promoter. Escherichia coli transformed with pGK12 DNA extracted from B31 expressing only erythromycin resistance developed both erythromycin and chloramphenicol resistance, and plasmid DNA isolated from these transformed E. coli had a restriction pattern similar to the original pGK12. Our data indicate that the replicons of pGK12 can provide the basis to continue developing efficient genetic systems for B. burgdorferi together with the erythromycin resistance and reporter egfp genes.