Borrelia species are unique in the bacterial world in possessing segmented genomes which sometimes contain over 20 genetic elements. Most elements are linear and contain covalently closed hairpin ends requiring a specialized process, telomere resolution, for their generation. Hairpin telomere resolution is mediated by the telomere resolvase, ResT. Although the process has been studied extensively in vitro, the essential nature of the resT gene has precluded biological studies to further probe the role of ResT. In this work, we have generated a B. burgdorferi strain that carries an isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG)-inducible resT gene controlled by a tightly regulated promoter. ResT is expressed in this strain at ~14,000 monomers per cell, similar to the ~15,000 monomers observed for the parental strain. We demonstrate ResT depletion with a half-life of 16 h upon IPTG washout. ResT depletion resulted in arrested growth 48 h after washout. Interestingly, not all spirochetes died after ResT washout, and at least 15% remained quiescent and could be resuscitated even at 2 weeks postwashout. Significant levels of DNA synthesis were not observed upon growth arrest, suggesting that ResT might interact directly or indirectly with factors controlling the initiation or elongation of DNA synthesis. Analysis of the linear plasmids lp17 and lp28-2 showed that the linear forms of these plasmids began to disappear and be replaced by higher-molecular-weight forms by 24 h post-IPTG washout. Treatment of DNA from the ResT-depleted strain with ResT in vitro revealed the presence of replicated telomeres expected in replication intermediates.
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