Eleven transfer-derepressed plasmids from incompatibility groups I, I, B, K and Z were constructed using the mutant strain BW86. All were found to determine thin flexible and thick rigid pili constitutively. Immune electron microscopy was used to relate thick and thin pilus serotypes with incompatibility grouping. Mutant plasmids that determined only thick pili constitutively transferred efficiently on an agar surface but not in a liquid, whereas plasmids with both kinds of pili transferred equally well in both environments. A mutant of the Incl plasmid R721 determined thin pili constitutively, and thick pili at a repressed level, as indicated by electron microscopy. Experiments with this indicated that thin pili were apparently not involved directly in conjugation but were only used to stabilize mating aggregates.


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