DNA sequences that encode the tnpR genes and internal resolution (res) sites of transposons Tn21 and Tn501, and the res site and the start of the tnpR gene of Tn1721 have been determined. There is considerable homology between all three sequences. The homology between Tn21 and Tn501 extends further than that between Tn1721 and Tn501 (or Tn21), but in the homologous regions, Tn1721 is 93% homologous with Tn501, while Tn21 is only 72-73% homologous. The tnpR genes of Tn21 and Tn501 encode proteins of 186 amino acids which show homology with the tnpR gene product of Tn3 and with other enzymes that carry out site-specific recombination. However, in all three transposons, and in contrast to Tn3, the tnpR gene is transcribed towards tnpA gene, and the res site is upstream of both. The res site of Tn3 shows no obvious homology with the res regions of these three transposons. Just upstream of the tnpR gene and within the region that displays common homology between the three elements, there is a 50 bp deletion in Tn21, compared to the other two elements. A TnpR- derivative of Tn21 was complemented by Tn21, Tn501 and Tn1721, but not by Tn3.