The tick-borne rickettsial organism, Anaplasma marginale, causes a disease in cattle of world-wide economic significance. This disease, anaplasmosis, is characterized by severe hemolytic anemia, high levels of rickettsemia and, often, death in animals over 3years of age. Animals that survive acute infection remain carriers, with continuous sub-microscopic cycles of rickettsemia that can persist for the lifetime of the animal. In the search for potential recombinant immunogens, it was discovered that several surface proteins of A. marginale encode polymorphic multigene families. Despite the small size of the genome (approx. 1250kb), these surface antigen gene families comprise greater than 2% of the genome. We present here a mapping, sequencing and expression analysis of five complete or partial genes encoding MSP1b in a Florida strain of A. marginale. Two genes are complete; they encode mRNA that is translated into polypeptide products. Three genes are incomplete and appear to be derived from the complete genes by a series of segmental intragenic recombinations. In two of the incomplete genes, 5' sequence in the incomplete genes is 3' sequence in the complete genes. Recombination within these gene families may generate diversity in surface antigens through combinatorial rearrangements. This could contribute to persistence in the chronic infections caused by A. marginale and related rickettsiae.