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An expression library made with Borrelia burgdorferi DNA in the vector lambda ZapII was screened with serum from a monkey infected with the
Lyme disease agent. This serum killed B. burgdorferi in vitro by an antibody-dependent, complement-mediated mechanism and contained antibodies to at least seven spirochetal antigens, none of which were the major outer surface proteins OspA or OspB. Among several positive clones, a clone containing the B. burgdorferi bmpA gene encoding the immunodominant antigen P39 was obtained. Chromosome walking and DNA sequence analysis permitted the identification of two additional upstream genes homologous to the bmpA gene and its related companion, bmpB. The first of these was the recently characterized bmpC gene, and adjacent to it was the fourth and new member of this class, which has been designated bmpD. The gene product encoded by bmpD is 34l residues long, contains a signal sequence with a potential signal peptidase II cleavage site, and has 26% identity with TmpC of Treponema pallidum. Southern blotting confirmed the tandem arrangement of all four bmp genes in the chromosome of B. burgdorferi JD1. However, Northern (RNA) blotting revealed that bmpD is expressed as a monocistronic transcript, which indicates that it is not part of an operon at the bmp locus. The bmpD gene was found to be conserved in representative members of the three species of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex, suggesting that it serves an important biological function in the spirochete.