Types Of Plasmids
Plasmids are not usually required by their host cell for its survival. Instead, they carry genes that confer a selective advantage on their host, such as resistance to heavy metals or resistance to naturally made antibiotics carried by other organisms. Alternatively, they may produce antibiotics (toxins) that help the host to compete for food or space. For instance, antibiotic resistance genes produced by a plasmid will allow its host bacteria to grow even in the presence of competing bacteria or fungi that produce these antibiotics.
Plasmids are subgrouped into five main types based on phenotypic function. R plasmids carry genes encoding resistance to antibiotics. Col plasmids confer on their host the ability to produce antibacterial polypeptides called bacteriocins that are often lethal to closely related or other bacteria. The col proteins of E. coli are encoded by plasmids such as ColE1. F plasmids contain the F or fertility system required for conjugation (the transfer of genetic information between two cells). These are also known as episomes because, under some circumstances, they can integrate into the host chromosome and thereby promote the transfer of chromosomal DNA between bacterial cells. Degradative or catabolic plasmids allow a host bacterium to metabolize normally undegradable or difficult compounds such as various pesticides. Finally, virulence plasmids confer pathogenicity on a host organism by the production of toxins or other virulence factors.