The nickel and cobalt resistance plasmid pMOL28 was transferred by conjugation from its natural host Alcaligenes eutrophus CH34 to the susceptible A. eutrophus N9A. Strain N9A and its pMOL28-containing transconjugant M220 were studied in detail. At a concentration of 3.0 mM NiCl2, the wild-type N9A did not grow, while M220 started to grow at its maximum exponential growth rate after a lag of 12 to 24 h. When grown in the presence of subinhibitory concentrations (0.5 mM) of nickel salt, M220 grew actively at 3 mM NiCl2 without a lag, indicating that nickel resistance is an inducible property. Expression of nickel resistance required active growth in the presence of nickel salts at a concentration higher than 0.05 mM. Two mutants of M220 were isolated which expressed nickel resistance constitutively. When the plasmids, pMOL28.1 and pMOL28.2, carried by the mutants were transferred to strains H16 and CH34, the transconjugants expressed constitutive nickel resistance. This indicates that the mutation is plasmid located. Both mutants expressed constitutive resistance to nickel and cobalt. Physiological studies revealed the following differences between strain N9A and its pMOL28.1-harboring mutant derivatives. (i) The uptake of 63NiCl2 occurred more rapidly in the susceptible strain and reached a 30- to 60-fold-higher amount that in the pMOL28.1-harboring mutant; (ii) in intact cells of the susceptible strain N9A, the cytoplasmic hydrogenase was inhibited by 1 to 5 nM NiCl2, whereas 10 mM Ni2+ was needed to inhibit the hydrogenase of mutant cells; (iii) the minimal concentration of nickel chloride for the derepressed synthesis of cytoplasmic hydrogenase was lower in strain N9A (1 to 3 microM) than in the constitutive mutant (8 to 10 microM).