Evidence is presented that lactose-fermenting ability (Lac+) in Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris AM1, SK11, and ML1 is associated with plasmid DNA, even though these strains are difficult to cure of Lac plasmids. When the Lac plasmids from these strains were introduced into L. lactis subsp. lactis LM0230, they appeared to replicate in a thermosensitive manner; inheritance of the plasmid was less efficient at 32 to 40°C than at 22°C. The stability of the L. lactis subsp. cremoris Lac plasmids in lactococci appeared to be a combination of both host and plasmid functions. Stabilized variants were isolated by growing the cultures at 32 to 40°C; these variants contained the Lac plasmids integrated into the L. lactis subsp. lactis LM0230 chromosome. In addition, the presence of the L. lactis subsp. cremoris Lac plasmids in L. lactis subsp. lactis resulted in a temperature-sensitive growth response; growth of L. lactis subsp. lactis transformants was significantly inhibited at 38 to 40°C, thereby resembling some L. lactis subsp. cremoris strains with respect to temperature sensitivity of growth.