The structure of a transposon specifying the biodegradation of chlorobenzoate contaminants is described. Tn5271 is a 17-kilobase (kb) transposon that resides in the plasmid or chromosome of Alcaligenes sp. strain BR60 and allows this organism to grow on 3- and 4-chlorobenzoate. The transposon is flanked by a directly repeated sequence of 3201 base pairs (bp), which in turn is flanked by 110-bp inverted repeats. The 3.2-kb repeated sequence, designated IS1071, exists in multiple copies in the genome of Alcaligenes sp. strain BR60 and is involved in recombination of the catabolic genes into the chromosome of this strain. Sequence analysis revealed that the inverted repeat of IS1071 and the derived amino acid sequence of the single open reading frame within IS1071 are related to the inverted repeats and transposase (TnpA) proteins of the class II (Tn3 family) transposable elements. The absence of a resolvase gene within IS1071 suggests that this element is capable of determining the first step in class II transposition only. This was confirmed by observations on the IS1071-dependent formation of stable cointegrates in a recombination-deficient Escherichia coli. These results support an evolutionary scheme in which the class II transposable elements descended from simple insertion sequences.