Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
Borrelia hermsii, an agent of tick-borne relapsing fever, was found to contain multiple circular plasmids approximately 30 kb in size. Sequencing of a DNA library constructed from circular plasmid fragments enabled assembly of a composite DNA sequence that is homologous to the cp32 plasmid family of the
Lyme disease spirochete, B. burgdorferi. Analysis of another relapsing fever bacterium, B. parkeri, indicated that it contains linear homologs of the B. hermsii and B. burgdorferi cp32 plasmids. The B. hermsii cp32 plasmids encode homologs of the B. burgdorferi Mlp and Bdr antigenic proteins and BlyA/BlyB putative hemolysins, but homologs of B. burgdorferi erp genes were absent. Immunoblot analyses demonstrated that relapsing fever patients produced antibodies to Mlp proteins, indicating that those proteins are synthesized by the spirochetes during human infection. Conservation of cp32-encoded genes in different Borrelia species suggests that their protein products serve functions essential to both relapsing fever and
Lyme disease spirochetes. Relapsing fever borreliae replicate to high levels in the blood of infected animals, permitting direct detection and possible functional studies of Mlp, Bdr, BlyA/BlyB, and other cp32-encoded proteins in vivo.