IncP-1, IncP-7 and IncP-9 plasmids often carry genes encoding enzymes involved in the degradation of man-made and natural contaminants, thus contributing to bacterial survival in polluted environments. However, the lack of suitable molecular tools often limits the detection of these plasmids in the environment. In this study, PCR followed by Southern blot hybridization detected the presence of plasmid-specific sequences in total community (TC-) DNA or fosmid DNA from samples originating from different environments and geographic regions. A novel primer system targeting IncP-9 plasmids was developed and applied along with established primers for IncP-1 and IncP-7. Screening TC- DNA from biopurification systems (BPS) which are used on farms for the purification of pesticide-contaminated water revealed high abundances of IncP-1 plasmids belonging to different subgroups as well as IncP-7 and IncP-9. The novel IncP-9 primer-system targeting the rep gene of nine IncP-9 subgroups allowed the detection of a high diversity of IncP-9 plasmid specific sequences in environments with different sources of pollution. Thus polluted sites are "hot spots'' of plasmids potentially carrying catabolic genes.
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