The genome of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi B31, the aetiologic agent of Lyme disease, contains a linear chromosome of 910, 725 base pairs and at least 17 linear and circular plasmids with a combined size of more than 533, 000 base pairs. The chromosome contains 853 genes encoding a basic set of proteins for DNA replication, transcription, translation, solute transport and energy metabolism, but, like Mycoplasma genitallum, it contains no genes for cellular biosynthetic reactions. Because B. burgdorferi and M. genitalium are distantly related eubacteria, we suggest that their limited metabolic capacities reflect convergent evolution by gene loss from more metabolically competent progenitors. Of 430 genes on 11 plasmids, most have no known biological function; 39% of plasmid genes are paralogues that form 47 gene families. The biological significance of the multiple plasmid- encoded genes is not clear, although they may be involved in antigenic variation or immune evasion.
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