DNA probe hybridisation was used to examine the relation between the cryptic plasmid from Neisseria gonorrhoeae and plasmids carried by pharyngeal isolates of Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria lactamica. The complete gonococcal cryptic plasmid and HinfI derived digestion fragments subcloned into Escherichia coli were used to probe Southern blots of plasmid extracts. Homology was found to a plasmid of approximate molecular weight 4.5 kilobase pairs (Kb) but not to plasmids of less than 3.2 Kb or 6.5 Kb. Eleven of 16 strains of N meningitidis and two of six strains of N lactamica carried plasmids that showed strong hybridisation with the 4.2 Kb gonococcal plasmid. Hybridisation of plasmids from non-gonococcal species of neisseria with the gonococcal cryptic plasmid indicates that caution should be taken when using the cryptic plasmid as a diagnostic probe for gonorrhoea.
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