A new animal model, the streptomycin-treated mini-pig, was developed in order to allow colonization of defined strains of Enterococcus faecalis in numbers sufficient to study plasmid transfer. Transfer of the pheromone-inducible pCF10 plasmid between streptomycin-resistant strains of E. faecalis OG1 was investigated in the model. The plasmid encodes resistance to tetracycline. Numbers of recipient, donor, and transconjugant bacteria were monitored by selective plating of fecal samples, and transconjugants were subsequently verified by PCR. After being ingested by the mini-pigs, the recipient strain persisted in the intestine at levels between 10(6) and 10(7) CFU per g of feces throughout the experiment. The donor strain, which carried different resistance markers but was otherwise chromosomally isogenic to the recipient strain, was given to the pigs 3 weeks after the recipient strain. The donor cells were initially present in high numbers (10(6) CFU per g) in feces, but they did not persist in the intestine at detectable levels. Immediately after introduction of the donor bacteria, transconjugant cells appeared and persisted in fecal samples at levels between 10(6) and 10(7) CFU per g until the end of the experiment. These observations showed that even in the absence of selective tetracycline pressure, plasmid pCF10 was transferred from ingested E. faecalis cells to other E. faecalis organisms already present in the intestinal environment and that the plasmid subsequently persisted in the intestine.