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The genome of the
Lyme disease-causing spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi encodes only a single polypeptide from the integration host factor (IHF)/HU or ‘DNABII’ family of nucleoid-associated proteins – Hbb. DNABII proteins induce large bends in DNA and serve as architectural factors in a variety of prokaryotic cellular processes. We have solved the crystal structure of an Hbb-DNA complex in which the DNA is bent by over 180 degrees . We find that like IHF, Hbb relies exclusively on indirect readout to recognize its cognate site. Additional binding studies show that the sequence preferences of Hbb are related to, yet distinct from those of IHF. Defining these binding characteristics may help to uncover additional roles for Hbb in Borrelia DNA metabolism as well as further our understanding of the mechanism of indirect readout.