An important step in Tn5 transposition requires transposase-transposase homodimerization to form a synaptic complex competent for cleavage of transposon DNA free from the flanking sequence. We demonstrate that the C-terminal helix of Tn5 transposase (residues 458-468 of 476 total amino acids) is required for synaptic complex formation during Tn5 transposition. Specifically, deletion of eight amino acids or more from the C terminus greatly reduces or abolishes synaptic complex formation in vitro. Due to this impaired synaptic complex formation, transposases lacking eight amino acids are also defective in the cleavage step of transposition. Interactions within the synaptic complex dimer interface were investigated by site-directed mutagenesis, and residues required for synaptic complex formation include amino acids comprising the dimer interface in the Tn5 inhibitor x-ray crystal structure dimer. Because the crystal structure dimer was hypothesized to be the inhibitory complex and not a synaptic complex, this result was surprising. Based on these data, models for both in vivo and in vitro synaptic complex formation are presented.