A family of small plasmids encoding resistance to nucleic acid-binding (NAB) compounds has recently been identified in strains of Staphylococcus aureus isolated in Italy, Texas and Western Australia. The mol. wts of the NAB-resistance plasmids are in the range (1.5-1.9) X 10(6) and all but one encode resistance to acridine yellow, ethidium bromide and quaternary ammonium compounds. The largest of the plasmids, pWG1773, differed in that it did not confer resistance to ethidium bromide. Restriction enzyme analysis of these plasmids revealed four distinct patterns corresponding to plasmids of four different mol. wts and physical maps were constructed based on the restriction patterns. Two plasmid types of molecular sizes approximately 2440 and 2240 base pairs had a 610-base pair region in common. Physical maps of the other two plasmid types were not related. The presence of a family of small NAB-resistance plasmids which carry no other known phenotypic markers provides further evidence for the strong selective advantage associated with maintenance of this determinant in clinical isolates of S. aureus.