Aspergillus niger var. awamori has transposable elements that we refer to as Vader and Tan1 (transposon A. niger). Vader was identified by screening unstable nitrate reductase (niaD) mutants for insertions. Four of the isolated niaD mutants were shown to contain a small insertion element. This 437 bp insertion element, Vader, is flanked by 44 bp inverted repeats (IR) and is present in approximately 15 copies in the genomes of two A. niger strains examined. A synthetic 44 bp oligomer of the inverted repeat of Vader has now been used to clone, via the polymerase chain reaction, a 2.3 kb Tan1 element. The Tan1 element has also been isolated from a partial genomic library. Tan1 is present as a single copy in A. niger var. awamori. The Tan1 element has a unique organization: IR-ORF-IR-IR-Vader-IR. The single open reading frame (ORF) (1668 bp) encodes a putative transposase homologous to Fusarium oxysporum Fot1 and Magnaporthe grisea Pot2. Immediately 3' to the second inverted repeat, which bounds the transposase, is a copy of the AT-rich Vader element. We hypothesize that at some stage the independent Vader element, although inactive by itself, arose from Tan1, resulting in current strains with only one copy of Tan1 providing transposase activity and numerous mobile copies of Vader dispersed in the genome.