We have recently described the GS element, found in Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), Mycobacterium avium subsp. silvaticum (MAS) and some isolates of Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium serotype 2 (MAAs2), which contains a set of genes of low GC% content, putatively associated with the biosynthesis, modification and transference of fucose to cell wall glycopeptidolipids. Here we describe a further gene of low GC% content (mpa), within the GS element in MAP. mpa is a putative acetyltransferase with homology to genes directly responsible for host specificity and virulence in Salmonella typhimurium and Shigella flexneri. Unlike other GS genes, strong homologues of mpa have not been found in related species, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). In MAP, mpa encodes an ORF of 445aa, however, in MAS and MAAs2 mpa contains a single inserted copy of a novel insertion sequence. This element (IS1612) has two sets of inverted repeats at each terminus and encodes two ORFs with good homologies to transposase and helper proteins of IS21 (E. coli) and IS1415 (R. erythropolis). Sequence comparisons between mpa in MAP and MAS indicate the target site for IS1612 is duplicated on insertion to give a direct repeat at each end of the element. Immediately, downstream of the mpa gene in both MAP and MAS are a group of three genes with good homology to the daunorubicin resistance cluster. This cluster has a high GC% content which suggests a 'border' for the GS element. A short motif present at the beginning of this cluster matches with an inverted repeat of this motif at the beginning of the first gene in the GS element. This encapsulates the whole of this group of low GC% genes in MAP and further suggests its cassette-like nature. Homologues of the GS element in MTB show a marked similarity of organisation, suggesting a parallel role for these genes in both pathogens.