Analysis of the complete genome indicates that insertion sequences (ISs) are abundant in the radio-resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans. By developing a forward mutagenesis assay to detect any inactivation events in D. radiodurans, we found that in the presence of an active mismatch repair system 75% of the mutations to trimethoprim-resistance (Tmp(R)) resulted from an IS insertion into the thyA coding region. Analysis of their distribution among the spontaneous Tmp(R) mutants indicated that five different ISs were transpositionally active. A type II Miniature Inverted-repeat Transposable Element (MITE), related to one of the deinococcal ISs, was also discovered as an insertion into thyA. Seven additional genomic copies of this MITE element were identified by BLASTN. Gamma-ray irradiation of D. radiodurans led to an increase of up to 10-fold in the frequency of Tmp(R) mutants. Analysis of the induced mutations in cells exposed to 10 kGy indicated that gamma-irradiation induced transposition of ISDra2 approximately 100-fold. A 50-fold induction of ISDra2 transposition was also observed in cells exposed to 600 J m(-2) UV-irradiation. Point mutations to rifampicin resistance (Rif(R)) were also induced by gamma-irradiation to reach a plateau at 2 kGy. The plateau value represented a 16-fold increase in the mutant frequency over the background. Although error-free repair strategies predominate in D. radiodurans, an upregulation of transposition, as well as induction of point mutations in cells recovering from DNA damage, provide a genetic variability that may have long-term evolutionary consequences on the fitness of this organism in its habitat.