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Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes
Lyme disease in humans, has an unusual genome composed of a linear chromosome and up to 21 extrachromosomal elements. Experimental data suggest that two of these elements, linear plasmids lp25 and lp28-1, play essential roles for infectivity in mice. In this study, we prove the essential natures of these two plasmids by selectively displacing lp25 or lp28-1 in an infectious wild-type clone with incompatible shuttle vectors derived from the native plasmids, rendering the respective transformants noninfectious to mice. Conversely, restoration of plasmid lp25 or lp28-1 in noninfectious clones that naturally lack the corresponding plasmid reestablished infectivity in mice. This approach establishes the ability to manipulate the plasmid content of strains by eliminating or introducing entire plasmids in B. burgdorferi and will be valuable in assessing the roles of plasmids even in unsequenced B. burgdorferi strains.