A naturally occurring constitutive macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B (MLS) resistance plasmid, pNE131, from Staphylococcus epidermidis was chosen to study the molecular basis of constitutive expression. Restriction and functional maps of pNE131 are presented along with the nucleotide sequence of ermM, the gene which mediates constitutive MLS resistance. Sharing 98% sequence homology within the 870-base-pair Sau3A-TaqI fragment, ermM appears to be almost identical to ermC, the inducible MLS resistance determinant from S. aureus (pE194). The two genes share nearly identical sequences, except in the 5' promoter region of ermM. Constitutive expression of ermM is due to the deletion of 107 base pairs relative to ermC; the deletion removes critical sequences for attenuation, resulting in constitutive methylase expression
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