SUMMARY: A naturally occurring mercury-resistance, conjugative plasmid, designated pQM1, was isolated from a bacterial population on the surface of stones from a river using as a recipient. This was a narrow-host-range plasmid [IncP-13; 165 MDa; Tra, Hg, fluorescein mercuric acetate, merbromin, Phi(E79), UV] confined to some spp. It was used to demonstrate transfer between bacteria on stones in laboratory microcosm experiments and . Transfer occurred (3·3 × 10 to 6·8 × 10 per recipient) at all the temperatures used (6-20°C), although frequencies were lower in the cold. Nutrient status also affected transfer frequency, rich conditions promoting transfer. The presence of competing bacteria in the natural epilithon lowered transfer frequencies, but when unscrubbed stones were heat treated, transfer was enhanced, perhaps because of nutrient release from the heated epilithon.


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