The major hot spot of transposon Tn5 insertion in plasmid pBR322 (hot spot I) is in the promoter for the tetracycline resistance gene (tet). We made a series of pBR322 derivatives with mutations in and around this promoter and assayed their effects on insertion of Tn5 into hot spot I. Those mutations which reduced transcription from the tet promoter also reduced the frequency of insertion into hot spot I. Transcription and translation of tet are thought to cause the formation of paired domains of negative and positive supercoiling in pBR322. An amber codon in tet, 345 base pairs from hot spot I, decreases the negative supercoiling of the DNA segment containing hot spot I because it terminates translation of tet prematurely. We report here that this amber mutation also reduces insertion into hot spot I. These results suggest that the ability of Tn5 to insert into its major hot spot in pBR322 depends directly on negative supercoiling of the target DNA.