Causative agents of
Lyme disease and relapsing fever, including Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia hermsii, respectively, are unusual among bacteria in that they possess a segmented genome with linear DNA molecules terminated by hairpin ends, known as telomeres. During replication, these telomeres are processed by the essential telomere resolvase, ResT, in a unique biochemical reaction known as telomere resolution. In this study, we report the identification of the B. hermsii resT gene through cross-species hybridization. Sequence comparison of the B. hermsii protein with the B. burgdorferi orthologue revealed 67% identity, including all the regions currently known to be crucial for telomere resolution. In vitro studies, however, indicated that B. hermsii ResT was unable to process a replicated B. burgdorferi type 2 telomere substrate. In contrast, in vivo cross-species complementation in which the native resT gene of B. burgdorferi was replaced with B. hermsii resT had no discernible effect, even though B. burgdorferi strain B31 carries at least two type 2 telomere ends. The B. burgdorferi ResT protein was also able to process two telomere spacing mutants in vivo that were unresolvable in vitro. The unexpected differential telomere processing in vivo versus in vitro by the two telomere resolvases suggests the presence of one or more accessory factors in vivo that are normally involved in the reaction. Our current results are also expected to facilitate further studies into ResT structure and function, including possible interaction with other Borrelia proteins.