Excision is probably the initial and rate-limiting step of the movements of conjugative transposons of Gram-positive bacteria such as Tn916 and Tn1545. We have shown, by molecular cloning and DNA sequencing, that a 2058 bp Sau3A right-junction fragment of transposon Tn1545 specifies two gene products that are involved in the excision of the element. The DNA sequence of these genes, designated orf1 and orf2, has been determined and the corresponding proteins, ORF1 and ORF2, have been identified in a bacterial cell-free coupled transcription-translation system. These proteins are freely diffusible since they are able to trans-complement in vivo a deletion derivative of Tn1545 defective for excision. Using an in vivo complementation assay, we have demonstrated that ORF2 alone is able to catalyse excision and that ORF1 strongly stimulates the activity of ORF2. We also found that ORF1 and ORF2 display local homology with, respectively, proteins Xis and Int from lamboid phages, which suggests that these excision systems have a common origin. Based on the functional properties of the integrase of bacteriophage lambda, on the analysis of the nucleotide sequence of the junction fragments and of the target before insertion and after excision, a model is proposed for ORF2-catalysed excision of Tn1545 and related conjugative transposons.