The influence of biotic and abiotic factors on plasmid transfer between Escherichia coli strains in terms of the variation in the number of transconjugants formed and the variation in transfer frequency was investigated. The density of parent cells affected the number of transconjugants, reaching a maximum when the cell density was on the order of 10(8) CFU ml-1. As the donor-to-recipient ratios varied from 10(-4) to 10(4), the number of transconjugants varied significantly (P less than 0.001), reaching a maximum with donor-to-recipient ratios between 1 and 10. The concentration of total organic carbon in the mating medium affects both the number of transconjugants and the transfer frequency, being significantly higher (P less than 0.001) when the total organic carbon concentration was higher than 1,139 mg of C liter-1. However, the transconjugants were detected even with less than 1 mg of C liter-1. Linear regression of log10 transconjugants versus mating temperature showed a highly significant regression line (P less than 0.001). Neither the transfer frequency nor the transconjugant number varied significantly in the range of pHs assayed. We can conclude that plasmid transfer by conjugation can take place within a wide range of conditions, even in such adverse conditions as the absence of nutrients and low temperatures
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