Borrelia burgdorferi harbors a limited set of transmembrane surface proteins, most of which constitute key targets of humoral immune responses. Here we show that BB0405, a conserved membrane-spanning protein of unknown function, fails to evoke detectable antibody responses despite its extracellular exposure. bb0405 is a member of an operon and ubiquitously expressed throughout the rodent-tick infection cycle. The gene product serves an essential function in vivo, as bb0405-deletion mutants are unable to transmit from ticks and establish infection in mammalian hosts. Despite the lack of BB0405-specific immunoglobulin M or immunoglobulin G antibodies during natural infection, mice immunized with a recombinant version of the protein elicited high-titer and remarkably long-lasting antibody responses, conferring significant host protection against tick-borne infection. Taken together, these studies highlight the essential role of an apparently immune-invisible borrelial transmembrane protein in facilitating infection and its usefulness as a target of protective host immunity blocking the transmission of B. burgdorferi.