Mobilizable shuttle plasmids containing the origin of transfer (oriT) region of plasmid F (IncFI), ColIb-P9 (IncI1), and RP4/RP1 (IncPalpha) were constructed to test the ability of the cognate conjugation system to mediate gene transfer from Escherichia coli to Streptomyces. The conjugative system of the IncPalpha plasmids was shown to be most effective in conjugative transfer, giving peak values of (2.7 +/- 0.2) x 10(-2) S. lividans TK24 exconjugants per recipient cell. To assess whether the mating-pair formation system or the DNA-processing apparatus of the IncPalpha plasmids is crucial in conjugative transfer, an assay with an IncQ-based mobilizable plasmid (RSF1010) specifying its own DNA-processing system was developed. Only the IncPalpha plasmid mobilized the construct to S. lividans indicating that the mating-pair formation system is primarly responsible for the promiscuous transfer of the plasmids between E. coli and Streptomyces. Dynamic of conjugative transfer from E. coli to S. lividans was investigated and exconjugants starting from the first hour of mating were obtained.