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Each cysteine residue in the MerT and MerP polypeptides of bacterial transposon Tn501 was replaced by serine, and the mercury-resistance phenotypes of the mutants were determined in Escherichia coli. Cys−24 and Cys−25 in the first transmembrane region of MerT were essential for transport of mercuric ions through the cytoplasmic membrane, and mutations Cys−76-Ser, Cys−82-Ser or Gly−38-Asp in MerT or Cys−36-Ser in MerP all reduced transport and resistance. Deletion of the merP gene slightly reduced mercuric ion resistance and transport, whereas a Cys−33-Ser mutation in MerP appears to block transport of mercuric ions by MerT. The effects of deleting merP on mutations in merT were tested. The 116-amino-acid MerT protein is sufficient for mercuric ion transport across the cytoplasmic membrane.