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The Escherichia coli resident mobile element IS30 has pronounced target specificity. Upon transposition, the element frequently inserts exactly into the same position of a preferred target sequence. Insertion sites in phages, plasmids and in the genome of E. coli are characterized by an exceptionally long palindromic consensus sequence that provides strong specificity for IS30 insertions, despite a relatively high level of degeneracy. This 24-bp-long region alone determines the attractiveness of the target DNA and the exact position of IS30 insertion. The divergence of a target site from the consensus and the occurrence of ‘non-permitted’ bases in certain positions influence the target activity. Differences in attractiveness are emphasized if two targets are present in the same replicon, as was demonstrated by quantitative analysis. In a system of competitive targets, the oligonucleotide sequence representing the consensus of genomic IS30 insertion sites proved to be the most efficient target. Having compared the known insertion sites, we suppose that IS30-like target specificity, which may represent an alternative strategy in target selection among mobile elements, is characteristic of the insertion sequences IS3, IS6 and IS21, too.