IS10 inserts preferentially into particular hotspots. We describe here mutations of IS10 transposase, called 'ATS' that confer Altered Target Specificity. These mutations yield a general relaxation in target specificity but do not affect other aspects of transposition. Thus, the preference for specific nucleotide sequences at the target site can be cleanly separated from other steps of the transposition reaction. Eleven ATS mutations identified in a genetic screen occur at only two codons in transposase, one in each of two regions of the protein previously implicated in target site interactions (Patch I and Patch II). Genetic analysis suggests that mutations at the two ATS codons affect the same specific function of transposase, thus raising the possibility that Patch I and Patch II interact. For wild-type IS10, insertion specificity is determined in part by a specific 6 bp consensus sequence and in part by the immediately adjacent sequence context of the target DNA. The ATS mutations do not qualitatively alter the hierarchy with which base pairs are recognized in the consensus sequence; instead, sites selected by ATS transposase exhibit a reduction in the degree to which certain base pairs are preferred over others. Models for the basis of this phenotype are discussed.