The complete nucleotide sequence of Staphylococcus aureus transposon Tn551 was determined. The 5,266-bp sequence encoded five putative proteins. Comparison of the nucleotide sequence of Tn551 with that of the enterococcal transposon Tn917 showed that the two transposons were 99.8% identical and differed only at 11 positions along the entire sequence. The genetic organization of Tn551 was also identical to that of Tn917. Northern analysis of RNA prepared from a staphylococcal strain bearing Tn551 displayed three erm-associated transcripts that were constitutively produced. Mapping of the 5' ends of the transcripts by primer extension suggested that the constitutive transcription of erm was initiated from a nucleotide located 5 bp downstream of ORF1. A second set of three erythromycin-inducible transcripts was also detected and these showed a pattern similar to that described for Tn917. A simple and rapid method is described for the use of the Tn551 sequence information in sequencing transposon-inactivated staphylococcal genes.