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Linear genome stability requires specialized telomere replication and protection mechanisms. A common solution to this problem in non-eukaryotes is the formation of hairpin telomeres by telomere resolvases (also known as protelomerases). These enzymes perform a two-step transesterification on replication intermediates to generate hairpin telomeres using an active site similar to that of tyrosine recombinases and type IB topoisomerases. Unlike phage telomere resolvases, the telomere resolvase from the
Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi (ResT) is a permissive enzyme that resolves several types of telomere in vitro. However, the ResT region and residues mediating permissive substrate usage have not been identified. The relapsing fever Borrelia hermsii ResT exhibits a more restricted substrate usage pattern than B. burgdorferi ResT and cannot efficiently resolve a Type 2 telomere. In this study, we determined that all relapsing fever ResTs process Type 2 telomeres inefficiently. Using a library of chimeric and mutant B. hermsii/B. burgdorferi ResTs, we mapped the determinants in B. burgdorferi ResT conferring the ability to resolve multiple Type 2 telomeres. Type 2 telomere resolution was dependent on a single proline in the ResT catalytic region that was conserved in all
Lyme disease but not relapsing fever ResTs and that is part of a 2-amino acid insertion absent from phage telomere resolvase sequences. The identification of a permissive substrate usage determinant explains the ability of B. burgdorferi ResT to process the 19 unique telomeres found in its segmented genome and will aid further studies on the structure and function of this essential enzyme.