In 7% of gram-negative bacteria resistance to gentamicin is mainly mediated by plasmid-encoded aminoglycoside transferase ANT-(2"). The genome organization of 15 aadB plasmids (42-110 kb) was analyzed by restriction and hybridization techniques. They appeared to be IncFII-like replicons but were distinct from R6 by virtue of small substitutions in the transfer region. Aminoglycoside resistance genes aadB and aadA were located on Tn21 related elements. Only one of them was able to transpose its resistance genes mer sul aadA and aadB ( Tn4000 ), the other elements were naturally occurring defective transposons. In some of these structures deletions were identified at the termini, at sul, aadA , mer or transposition function--insertions adjacent to aadA or mer. The mode of these rearrangements and their site-specificity were considered with respect to the evolution of the Tn21 transposon family.