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Adv Appl Microbiol. 2014;86:41-143. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800262-9.00002-0.

Insights into the biology of Borrelia burgdorferi gained through the application of molecular genetics.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Electronic address:


Borrelia burgdorferi, the vector-borne bacterium that causes Lyme disease, was first identified in 1982. It is known that much of the pathology associated with Lyme borreliosis is due to the spirochete's ability to infect, colonize, disseminate, and survive within the vertebrate host. Early studies aimed at defining the biological contributions of individual genes during infection and transmission were hindered by the lack of adequate tools and techniques for molecular genetic analysis of the spirochete. The development of genetic manipulation techniques, paired with elucidation and annotation of the B. burgdorferi genome sequence, has led to major advancements in our understanding of the virulence factors and the molecular events associated with Lyme disease. Since the dawn of this genetic era of Lyme research, genes required for vector or host adaptation have garnered significant attention and highlighted the central role that these components play in the enzootic cycle of this pathogen. This chapter covers the progress made in the Borrelia field since the application of mutagenesis techniques and how they have allowed researchers to begin ascribing roles to individual genes. Understanding the complex process of adaptation and survival as the spirochete cycles between the tick vector and vertebrate host will lead to the development of more effective diagnostic tools as well as identification of novel therapeutic and vaccine targets. In this chapter, the Borrelia genes are presented in the context of their general biological roles in global gene regulation, motility, cell processes, immune evasion, and colonization/dissemination.


Borrelia; Borreliosis; Genetics; Lyme disease; Molecular biology; Mutagenesis; Pathogenesis; Regulation; Tick; Vector-borne

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