The insertion of the kanamycin-resistance transposon, Tn903, into the Escherichia coli chromosome was studied. Tn903 is similar in structure to the well known transposons Tn5 and Tn10 in that it has a unique central sequence flanked by inverted repeat sequences extending more than a thousand base pairs. However, the central region of Tn903 has enough single-frame coding capacity only for the drug modifying enzyme, whereas Tn5 and Tn10 carry multigenic unique sequences. In this paper we demonstrate that two different classes of insertion event occur: (1) the first class is a complex event in which all or part of the genome of the bacteriophage lambda vector is co-inserted near the purE locus on the E. coli chromosome (11.7 min); (2) the second class appears to be a "simple" transposition event in which the transposon alone is inserted at relatively nonspecific sites in the chromosome, as has been described for Tn5 and Tn10. Furthermore both classes show dependency on homology-requiring recombination systems. We suggest that Tn903 transposes infrequently because it must utilize a recA-controlled host function, whereas Tn5 and Tn10 are recA-independent and encode similar but more active functions on the transposon DNA.
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