Myxococcus xanthus YS produces particles (Mx alpha particles) that transmit genetic information between cells. Mx alpha particles might be viruses, although no host able to sustain lytic growth of Mx alpha has been discovered. The particles could be detected by their ability to transduce a Tn5 transposon tag to recipient bacteria. DNA from purified particles hybridized to a limited number of DNA restriction fragments of strain YS, suggesting that Mx alpha particles contain only specific DNA sequences. A set of Tn5 insertions residing in the transducible region provided genetic markers for cloning cellular DNA packaged by Mx alpha. A map of this region showed that transducible DNA comprised multiple units of approximately 80 kilobases each. Individual units share DNA homology but are divergent in the location of restriction sites. Other wild-type isolates of Myxococcus species contained DNA sequences with homology to Mx alpha DNA, indicating that Mx alpha DNA is widespread in nature. Experiments on the transfer of Mx alpha DNA in strain YS suggested that DNA transfer is enhanced during the developmental cycle.