Borrelia burgdorferi bba57 is a conserved gene encoding a potential lipoprotein of unknown function. Here we show that bba57 is up-regulated in vivo and is required for early murine infection and potential spirochete transmission process. Although BBA57 is dispensable for late murine infection, the mutants were unable to induce disease. We show that BBA57, an outer membrane and surface-exposed antigen, is a major trigger of murine Lyme arthritis; even in cases of larger challenge inocula, which allow their persistence in joints at a level similar to wild-type spirochetes, bba57 mutants are unable to induce joint inflammation. We further showed that BBA57 deficiency reduces the expression of selected “neutrophil-recruiting” chemokines and associated receptors, causing significant impairment of neutrophil chemotaxis. New approaches to combat Lyme disease may include strategies to interfere with BBA57, a novel virulence factor and a trigger of murine Lyme arthritis.