Three N-terminal basic residues of Tn5 transposase, which are associated with proteolytic cleavages by Escherichia coli proteinases, were mutated to glutamine residues with the goal of producing more stable transposase molecules. Mutation of either arginine 30 or arginine 62 to glutamine produced transposase molecules that were more stable toward E. coli proteinases than the parent hyperactive Tn5 transposase, however, they were inactive in vivo. In vitro analysis revealed these mutants were inactive, because both Arg(30) and Arg(62) are required for formation of the paired ends complexes when the transposon is attached to the donor backbone. These results suggest Arg(30) and Arg(62) play critical roles in DNA binding and/or synaptic complex formation. Mutation of lysine 40 to glutamine did not increase the overall stability of the transposase to E. coli proteinases. This mutant transposase was only about 1% as active as the parent hyperactive transposase in vivo; however, it retained nearly full activity in vitro. These results suggest that lysine 40 is important for a step in the transposition mechanism that is bypassed in the in vitro assay system, such as the removal of the transposase molecule from DNA following strand transfer.