All analyzed members of the spirochete genus Borrelia contain a linear chromosome about 910 kbp long. The complete sequence of the B. burgdorferi B31 genome predicts that its chromosome carries essentially all of this organism's housekeeping genes. In accordance with these bacterial species' obligatory parasitic lifestyle, its genes encode enzymes that are capable of only a minimal metabolism, in which all nucleotides, amino acids, fatty acids and enzyme cofactors must be scavenged from the host. In addition to the chromosome, all Borrelia isolates examined carry multiple linear and circular plasmids with lengths between 5 and 200 kbp. The plasmids, which account for over 600 kbp in isolate B31, carry very few genes with homology to genes outside of the Borrelia genus. But they do carry numerous predicted lipoprotein genes, many of which are have been shown to be or are expected to be outer surface proteins. Ten of the linear plasmids have strikingly low protein coding potential for bacterial DNA. These plasmids have enjoyed numerous past duplicative rearrangements, which have resulted in the presence of a substantial fraction of the DNA that appears to be currently undergoing mutational decay, presumably because it is no longer under selection for function.