Borrelia burgdorferi contains abundant circular and linear plasmids, but the mechanism of replication of these extrachromosomal elements is unknown. A B. burgdorferi 9 kb circular plasmid (cp9) was amplified in its entirety by the polymerase chain reaction and used to construct a shuttle vector that replicates in Escherichia coli and B. burgdorferi. A 3.3 kb region of cp9 containing three open reading frames was used to construct a smaller shuttle vector, designated pBSV2. This vector was stably maintained in B. burgdorferi, indicating that all elements necessary for autonomous replication are probably located on this 3.3 kb fragment. A non-infectious B. burgdorferi strain was efficiently transformed by pBSV2. Additionally, infectious B. burgdorferi was also successfully transformed by pBSV2, indicating that infectious strains of this important human pathogen can now be genetically manipulated.