The main Borrelia species causing Lyme borreliosis in Europe and Asia are Borrelia afzelii, B. garinii, B. burgdorferi and B. bavariensis. This is in contrast to the United States, where infections are exclusively caused by B. burgdorferi. Until to date the genome sequences of four B. afzelii strains, of which only two include the numerous plasmids, are available. In order to further assess the genetic diversity of B. afzelii, the most common species in Europe, responsible for the large variety of clinical manifestations of Lyme borreliosis, we have determined the full genome sequence of the B. afzelii strain K78, a clinical isolate from Austria. The K78 genome contains a linear chromosome (905,949 bp) and 13 plasmids (8 linear and 5 circular) together presenting 1,309 open reading frames of which 496 are located on plasmids. With the exception of lp28-8, all linear replicons in their full length including their telomeres have been sequenced. The comparison with the genomes of the four other B. afzelii strains, ACA-1, PKo, HLJ01 and Tom3107, as well as the one of B. burgdorferi strain B31, confirmed a high degree of conservation within the linear chromosome of B. afzelii, whereas plasmid encoded genes showed a much larger diversity. Since some plasmids present in B. burgdorferi are missing in the B. afzelii genomes, the corresponding virulence factors of B. burgdorferi are found in B. afzelii on other unrelated plasmids. In addition, we have identified a species specific region in the circular plasmid, cp26, which could be used for species determination. Different non-coding RNAs have been located on the B. afzelii K78 genome, which have not previously been annotated in any of the published Borrelia genomes.
2015. Vol. 10, no 3