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J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2000 Oct;2(4):387-92.

Genome analyses of spirochetes: a study of the protein structures, functions and metabolic pathways in Treponema pallidum and Borrelia burgdorferi.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


We perform a comprehensive genome analysis on two spirochetes, T. pallidum and B. burgdorferi. First, we focus on the occurrence of protein structures in these organisms. We find that there are only a few spirochete-specific folds, relative to those in other types of bacteria. The most common fold, by far, in the spirochetes is the P-loop NTP hydrolase, followed by the TIM barrel. These folds also happen to be amongst the most multifunctional of the known folds. We also survey the membrane-protein structures in T. pallidum and find a notable large family with twelve transmembrane (TM) helices, reflecting the prevalence of 12-TM transporters in bacteria. Then we move to analysis of the metabolic pathways and overall metabolism in the spirochetes, using the metabolic-flux-balancing method. We find that the lipid biosynthesis pathway is absent from the spirochetes. This strongly limits the degree to which these organisms can metabolize NADPH. In turn, we find that the spirochetes distribute flux disproportionately through the glycolytic pathway instead of the NADPH-providing pentose phosphate pathway. Further information is available at

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