In recent years resistance to the antibacterial agent trimethoprim (Tmp) has become more widespread, and several trimethoprim-resistant (Tmpr) dihydrofolate reductases (DHFRs) have been described from gram-negative bacteria. In staphylococci, only one Tmpr DHFR has been described, the type S1 DHFR, which is encoded by the dfrA gene found on transposon Tn4003. In order to investigate the coincidence of high-level Tmp resistance and the presence of dfrA, we analyzed the DNAs from various Tmpr staphylococci for the presence of dfrA sequences by PCR with primers specific for the thyE-dfrA genes from Tn4003. We found that 30 or 33 isolates highly resistant to Tmp (MICs, > or = 512 micrograms/ml) contained dfrA sequences, whereas among the Tmpr (MICs, < or = 256 micrograms/ml) and Tmps isolates only the Staphylococcus epidermidis isolates (both Tmpr and Tmps) seemed to contain the dfrA gene. Furthermore, we have cloned and characterized a novel, plasmid-encoded Tmpr DHFR from Staphylococcus haemolyticus MUR313. The dfrD gene of plasmid pABU17 is preceded by two putative Shine-Dalgarno sequences potentially allowing for the start of translation at two triplets separated by nine nucleotides. The predicted protein of 166 amino acids, designated S2DHFR, encoded by the longer open reading frame was overproduced in Escherichia coli, purified, and characterized. The molecular size of the recombinant S2DHFR was determined by ion spray mass spectrometry to be 19,821.2 +/- 2 Da, which is in agreement with the theoretical value of 19,822 Da. In addition, the recombinant S2DHFR was shown to exhibit DHFR activity and to be highly resistant to Tmp.