Summary: In order to provide a profile of the plasmid gene pool in prior to the clinical use of antibiotics, a molecular genetic analysis was made of plasmids in strains collected by E. D. G. Murray between 1917 and 1954. These pre-antibiotic era (PAE) salmonellae contain conjugative plasmids of the same incompatibility groups as contemporary enterobacterial plasmids. Upon analysis of total plasmid content, 42 plasmids, sized between 23 and 72 MDa, were found. We defined and investigated six groups of these PAE plasmids in terms of three groups of genes; those involved in plasmid maintenance and incompatibility, DNA repair and virulence. Of the five groups, three were replicon-typed to groups IncI1, IncX and IncFII; one group exhibited no homology to contemporary Inc/Rep probes, and one group represented virulence plasmids containing a common plasmid-partitioning locus. The results indicated that most of the PAE groups were progenitors of contemporary R-plasmids, except for the virulence plasmids, which have generally not evolved as vectors of antibiotic resistance.


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