Lactobacillus johnsonii FI9785, a strain originally isolated from poultry gastrointestinal tract for its probiotic function as a competitive excluder of pathogens, was found to contain two cryptic plasmids of 3.5 and 25.6 kb. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the entire small plasmid, designated p9785S (3471 bp), indicated a G+C content of 35.8%, and revealed two open reading frames (orfs). The product of orf1 exhibited similarity to the relaxases of mobilizable plasmids, whereas the product of orf2 displayed significant homology to replication proteins of plasmids which use the rolling circle mode of replication. A conserved double-strand origin of replication was also present in p9785S. A definite minus origin was not identified although a region with extensive intrastrand base pairing potential was revealed. A 1.4 kb fragment encoding the chloramphenicol resistance gene was cloned into p9785S and the resulting vector, pFI2431, was stably maintained when introduced into the parent Lactobacillus cells.