Insertion sequences (IS)1397 and ISKpn1, found in Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae respectively, are IS3 family members that insert specifically into short palindromic repeated sequences (palindromic units or PUs). In this paper, we first show that although PUs are naturally absent from extrachromosomal elements, both ISs are able to transpose from the chromosome or from a plasmid into PUs artificially introduced into target plasmids. We also show that ISKpn1 target specificity is restricted to K.pneumoniae Z1 PU type, whereas IS1397 target specificity is less stringent since the IS fargets the three E.coli Y, Z1 and Z2 PU types indifferently. Experiments of transposition of both ISs driven by both transposases demonstrate that the inverted repeats flanking the ISs are not responsible for this target specificity, which is entirely due to the transposase itself. Implications on ISs evolution are presented.
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