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To identify cell envelope proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of
Lyme disease, we constructed a library of B. burgdorferi genes fused to the Escherichia coli phoA gene, which expresses enzymatically active alkaline phosphatase. One such gene, oppA-1, encodes a predicted polypeptide with significant similarities to various peptide-binding proteins of ABC-type transporters. Immediately downstream of oppA-1 are two genes, oppA-2 and oppA-3, whose predicted polypeptide products show strong similarities in their amino acid sequences to OppA-1, including a sequence that resembles the most highly conserved region in peptide-binding proteins. By labeling with [3H]palmitate, OppA-1, OppA-2, and OppA-3 were shown to be lipoproteins. DNA hybridization analysis showed that the oppA-1 oppA-2 oppA-3 region is located on the linear chromosome of B. burgdorferi, and the genes are conserved among different Borrelia species that cause
Lyme disease (B. burgdorferi, B. garinii, and B. afzelli), suggesting that all three homologous genes are important to the maintenance of
Lyme disease spirochetes in one or more of their hosts.