1887

Abstract

Nine mercury-resistance plasmids isolated from river epilithon were assessed for their ability to retrotransfer the non-conjugative IncQ plasmid, R300B, derivatives of which have commercial uses that may result in accidental or deliberate release into the environment. Retrotransfer frequencies ranging from 2.1×10 to 1.75×10 were obtained for five of the nine plasmids – the remaining plasmids showed low or undetectable retrotransfer ability. The majority of the retrotransfer-proficient plasmids could not be classified by the tests used. Classical incompatibility testing with RP4 identified pQKH6, pQKH54 and pQM719 as IncP-1. Hybridization to replicon probes confirmed this for pQKH6 and pQM719 and added pQKH33. PCR with primers designed to amplify and regions of IncP-1 plasmids did not identify any other plasmids. Plasmids pQKH6 and pQM719 but not pQKH54 produced similar I restriction profiles to the IncP-1 subgroup. The complete nucleotide sequence of pQKH54 was determined, revealing it to have a complete IncP-1 backbone but belonging to a new distinct subgroup which was designated IncP-1. The results emphasize the ubiquity and diversity of IncP-1 plasmids in the environment but demonstrate that plasmids of as yet unknown groups are also able to retrotransfer IncQ plasmids efficiently.

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