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Naturally Occurring Penicillinase Plasmids in Staphylococcus aureus

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  • Genetics And Molecular Biology
  • Biology


A series of plasmids harbored by naturally occurring penicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus were surveyed with a view toward exploring the variability in plasmid-linked marker patterns. Plasmids were transduced from their natural hosts to either of two plasmid-negative laboratory strains by selection for cadmium resistance, and the transductants were tested for all other markers previously found to be plasmid-linked. All of the strains that were able to serve as genetic donors to one of the two stock strains could donate cadmium and lead resistance as linked, plasmid-borne markers. Among the other plasmid markers, a wide variety of patterns was found, including four plasmids that did not carry the penicillinase determinant. Each of the 26 plasmids studied, including the latter 4, was found to belong to one of the two incompatibility sets of penicillinase plasmids previously identified. With the exception of the penicillinase-negative plasmids, which were found in both sets, all the plasmids of incompatibility set I directed the production of penicillinase type A; those belonging to set II directed either type A or type C. Those of set II without exception increased the sensitivity of their host strains to bismuth ion; those of set I carried determinants of bismuth resistance or did not affect the sensitivity of their host to this ion. No other perfect correlations between markers were encountered; in particular, there was no correlation between penicillinase serotype and the excretion of the enzyme. This finding allows the prediction that there is, in addition to all of the markers thus far identified, a plasmid-linked determinant of penicillinase excretion.

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