Plasmid analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease agent.


A simple procedure for extraction of plasmid-enriched DNA from borreliae was used in a plasmid analysis of 13 strains of the Lyme disease agent, Borrelia burgdorferi. The extracted DNA was subjected to low-percentage agarose gel electrophoresis and examined either directly by ethidium bromide staining or after hybridization of the plasmids in situ with a DNA probe for the gene encoding the major outer membrane protein OspA. Each isolate had four to seven discernible plasmids of various sizes. Only 2 of the 13 strains had the same plasmid profile. The ospA gene probe hybridized to large plasmids to strains from both North America and Europe. A strain which had been passaged many times was found to have lost two of the six plasmids originally present. These findings indicate the potential usefulness of plasmid analysis as a strain-typing procedure and for identifying possible plasmid-conferred virulence factors.

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