A phylogenomic and molecular marker based proposal for the division of the genus Borrelia into two genera: the emended genus Borrelia containing only the members of the relapsing fever Borrelia, and the genus Borreliella gen. nov. containing the members of the Lyme disease Borrelia (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex)
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The genus Borrelia contains two groups of organisms: the causative agents of Lyme disease and their relatives and the causative agents of relapsing fever and their relatives. These two groups are morphologically indistinguishable and are difficult to distinguish biochemically. In this work, we have carried out detailed comparative genomic analyses on protein sequences from 38 Borrelia genomes to identify molecular markers in the forms of conserved signature inserts/deletions (CSIs) that are specifically found in the Borrelia homologues, and conserved signature proteins (CSPs) which are uniquely present in Borrelia species. Our analyses have identified 31 CSIs and 82 CSPs that are uniquely shared by all sequenced Borrelia species, providing molecular markers for this group of organisms. In addition, our work has identified 7 CSIs and 21 CSPs which are uniquely found in the Lyme disease Borrelia species and eight CSIs and four CSPs that are specific for members of the relapsing fever Borrelia group. Additionally, 38 other CSIs, in proteins which are uniquely found in Borrelia species, also distinguish these two groups of Borrelia. The identified CSIs and CSPs provide novel and highly specific molecular markers for identification and distinguishing between the Lyme disease Borrelia and the relapsing fever Borrelia species. We also report the results of average nucleotide identity (ANI) analysis on Borrelia genomes and phylogenetic analysis for these species based upon 16S rRNA sequences and concatenated sequences for 25 conserved proteins. These analyses also support the distinctness of the two Borrelia clades. On the basis of the identified molecular markers, the results from ANI and phylogenetic studies, and the distinct pathogenicity profiles and arthropod vectors used by different Borrelia spp. for their transmission, we are proposing a division of the genus Borrelia into two separate genera: an emended genus Borrelia, containing the causative agents of relapsing fever and a novel genus, Borreliella gen. nov., containing the causative agents of Lyme disease.