The Tn3-family of Replicative Transposons

Microbiol Spectr. 2015 Aug;3(4). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MDNA3-0060-2014.


Transposons of the Tn3 family form a widespread and remarkably homogeneous group of bacterial transposable elements in terms of transposition functions and an extremely versatile system for mediating gene reassortment and genomic plasticity owing to their modular organization. They have made major contributions to antimicrobial drug resistance dissemination or to endowing environmental bacteria with novel catabolic capacities. Here, we discuss the dynamic aspects inherent to the diversity and mosaic structure of Tn3-family transposons and their derivatives. We also provide an overview of current knowledge of the replicative transposition mechanism of the family, emphasizing most recent work aimed at understanding this mechanism at the biochemical level. Previous and recent data are put in perspective with those obtained for other transposable elements to build up a tentative model linking the activities of the Tn3-family transposase protein with the cellular process of DNA replication, suggesting new lines for further investigation. Finally, we summarize our current view of the DNA site-specific recombination mechanisms responsible for converting replicative transposition intermediates into final products, comparing paradigm systems using a serine recombinase with more recently characterized systems that use a tyrosine recombinase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Transposases / genetics
  • Transposases / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Tn3 transposase
  • Transposases