Identification of loci critical for replication and compatibility of a Borrelia burgdorferi cp32 plasmid and use of a cp32-based shuttle vector for the expression of fluorescent reporters in the lyme disease spirochaete

Mol Microbiol. 2002 Jan;43(2):281-95. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.02758.x.


The 32kb circular plasmid (cp32) family of Borrelia burgdorferi has been the subject of intensive investigation because its members encode numerous differentially expressed lipoproteins. As many as nine different cp32s appear to be capable of stable replication within a single spirochaete. Here, we show that a construct (pCE310) containing a 4 kb fragment from the putative maintenance region of a B. burgdorferi CA-11.2A cp32 was capable of autonomous replication in both high-passage B. burgdorferi B31 and virulent B. burgdorferi 297. Deletion analysis revealed that only the member of paralogous family 57 and the adjacent non-coding segment were essential for replication. The PF32 ParA orthologue encoded by the pCE310 insert was almost identical to the PF32 orthologues encoded on the B31 and 297 cp32-3 plasmids. The finding that cp32-3 was selectively deleted in both B31 and 297 transformants carrying pCE310 demonstrated the importance of the PF32 protein for cp32 compatibility and confirmed the prediction that cp32 plasmids expressing identical PF32 paralogues are incompatible. A shuttle vector containing the CA-11.2A cp32 plasmid maintenance region was used to introduce green, yellow and cyan fluorescent protein reporters into B. burgdorferi. Flow cytometry revealed that the green fluorescent protein was well expressed by almost 90% of both avirulent and infectious transformants. In addition to enhancing our understanding of B. burgdorferi plasmid biology, our results further the development of genetic systems for dissecting pathogenic mechanisms in Lyme disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Borrelia burgdorferi / genetics*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA, Bacterial*
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Plasmids*
  • Replicon


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins