A system is described which permits visualization and analysis of a number of molecular species associated with transposition activity of the bacterial insertion sequence, IS1, in vivo. The technique involves induction of an IS1 transposase gene carried by a plasmid which also includes an IS1-based transposable element. It is, in principle, applicable to the identification of transposition intermediates as well as unstable transposition products and those which are not detectable by genetic means. Thirteen novel molecular species were detected after 4 h of induction. Five major species were characterized, based on their behaviour as a function of time, on their hybridization patterns and on the nucleotide sequences of the transposon-backbone junctions. All result from intramolecular IS1 transposition events. The two reciprocal partner products of IS1-mediated deletions, the intramolecular equivalent of co-integrates generated by intermolecular transposition, have been identified. Both carry a single copy of the transposable element and present complementary distributions of deletion endpoints. These results establish, by direct physical means, that adjacent IS1-mediated deletions are accompanied by duplication of the element. A second type of molecule identified was an excised circular copy of the transposon, raising the possibility that IS1 is capable of following an intermolecular transposition pathway, via excised transposon circles, leading to direct insertion.