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Spirochetes of the genus Borrelia include the causative agents of
Lyme disease and relapsing fever. They possess unusual, highly segmented genomes composed mostly of linear replicons with covalently closed hairpin telomeres. The telomeres are formed from inverted repeat replicated telomere junctions (rTels) by the telomere resolvase, ResT. ResT uses a reaction mechanism with similarities to that employed by the type IB topoisomerases and tyrosine recombinases. Here, we report that the relationship of ResT to the tyrosine recombinases extends to the ability to synapse-replicated telomeres and to catalyse the formation of a Holliday junction. We also report that ResT can use asymmetrized substrates that mimic the properties of a recombination site for a tyrosine recombinase, to form Holliday junctions. We propose a model for how this explains the origin of genome linearity in the genus Borrelia.