Repetition, conservation, and variation: the multiple cp32 plasmids of Borrelia species

J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2000 Oct;2(4):411-22.


Members of the spirochete genus Borrelia contain large numbers of extrachromosomal DNAs. Sequence analysis of the B. burgdorferi strain B31 genome indicated that its many plasmids contain large quantities of repeated sequences, the most obvious of which are the cp32 plasmid family. Individual spirochetes may carry nine or more different, but homologous, cp32 plasmids. Every other species of Borrelia examined thus far also contains multiple plasmids related to the B. burgdorferi cp32s. These plasmids are arguably the best characterized of all the borrelial plasmids, and epitomize the apparent redundancy evident in the many plasmids carried by these bacteria. Despite their extensive similarities, cp32 plasmids contain some open reading frames whose sequences often vary between plasmids, and which encode proteins synthesized by the bacteria during vertebrate infection. In this review, we analyze the hypervariable and conserved regions of the cp32 plasmid family, and discuss possible reasons why borreliae harbor multiple gene paralogs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Borrelia / genetics*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • DNA, Bacterial