Naturally occurring erythromycin (Em) resistance was found in 11 of the 18 Bacillus licheniformis isolates tested but was absent from a wide variety of other Bacillus strains. The Em resistance elements confer inducible macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B (MLS) resistance and are related to ermD an MLS resistance element previously cloned from the chromosome of B. licheniformis 749. The MLS sensitive B. licheniformis strains and the other sensitive Bacillus strains tested, lack sequences with detectable homology to ermD. The sensitive B. licheniformis strains do exhibit homology to sequences which flank ermD in B. licheniformis 749. The relative sizes of the homologous DNA fragments suggest that the sensitive strains are lacking a 3.6 kb segment which contains ermD. It is shown that ermD is homologous to chromosomal DNA from Streptomyces erythreus ATCC 11635, an Em producing organism. These observations suggest to us that MLS resistance may have arisen in the Streptomyces and spread to B. licheniformis another gram positive bacterium found in soil. It is further proposed that ermD is or was located on a transposon-like element and has spread and evolved further to yeild a variety of related Staphylococcal and Streptococcal MLS determinants.
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