From enrichment cultures in the presence of 1 mM NiCl2 200 strains of aerobic bacteria were isolated from 50 samples collected in the metal-processing industry, waste water treatment plants and from solid waste, highly polluted by heavy metals. The strains isolated were characterized with respect to their substrate spectrum and resistance to nickel, cobalt, zinc and cadmium salts and assigned to 21 groups. One representative of each group was described with respect to cell morphology. All strains were Gram-negative, non-sporing rods or cocci. The highest concentrations of nickel, cobalt, zinc, cadmium, copper, mercury, and silver allowing growth on solid media were estimated. Two strains were able to grow at 20 mM NiCl2 and CoCl2, one strain tolerated 12 mM and one 7.5 mM concentrations of these salts.
Fifteen out of 21 strains contained at least one plasmid two contained two plasmids. The plasmid sizes varied between 50 and 340 kbp, except strain 10A, which contained a miniplasmid (2.6 kbp). Attempts to cure four selected strains by exposure to mitomycin C or growth at elevated temperature failed.
By helper-assisted and unassisted conjugation the plasmids of strain 31A were shown to carry nickel and cobalt resistance determinants. Alcaligenes eutrophus strains H16 and N9A and denative of strain CH34 lacking one or both of its native metal resistance plasmids were used as recipients. Both plasmids, p TOM8 and pTOM9, of strain 31A carried resistance properties which were expressed in all recipients except. A. eutrophus H16, in which only nickel resistance was expressed.
Plasmid pTOM3 residing in strain 10A could not be transferred as such. However, transconjugants derived from helper (pULB113)-assisted matings carried co-integrates of various sizes and were resistant to nickel and cobalt.