Summary: The ampicillin-resistant strain Ve445 which caused purulent meningitis and septicaemia in a newborn child in Germany contained a 4.4 megadalton (Mdal) plasmid (pVe445) and produced a TEM type β-lactamase. The transformation to ampicillin resistance of a sensitive strain with isolated pVe445 DNA proved that the structural gene for the β-lactamase resided on this plasmid genome. Molecular DNA-DNA hybridization studies and electron microscope DNA heteroduplex analysis indicated that pVe445 probably contained 38 to 41% of the ampicillin translocation DNA segment (TnA) found on R factors of enteric origin. The TnA fragment present in pVe445 most likely does not contain both of the inverted repeat sequences of TnA. DNA-DNA polynucleotide sequence studies indicated that the 4.4 Mdal plasmid pVe445 was unrelated to the 30 to 38 Mdal R plasmids but was closely related to the 4.1 Mdal ampicillin resistance specifying plasmid RSF0885 isolated in the U.S.A. The plasmid pVe445 shared 91% of its base sequences with the β-lactamase specifying Neisseria gonorrhoeae plasmid pMR0360 (4.4 Mdal) and had 85% of its base sequences in common with the β-lactamase specifying plasmid pMR0200 (3.2 Mdal). All of the four 3.2 to 4.4 Mdal β-lactamase specifying R plasmids of and investigated probably have a common evolutionary origin.


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