The circular chloroplast DNAs from spinach, lettuce, and corn plants have been examined by electron microscopy and shown to contain a large sequence repeated one time in reverse polarity. The inverted sequence in spinach and lettuce chloroplast DNA has been found to be 24,400 base pairs long. The inverted sequence in the corn chloroplast DNA is 22,500 base pairs long. Denaturation mapping studies have shown that the structure of the inverted sequence is highly conserved in these three plants. Pea chloroplast DNA does not contain an inverted repeat. All of the circular dimers of pea chloroplast DNA are found to be in a head-to-tail confirmation. Circular dimers of spinach and lettuce were also found to have head-to-tail conformation. However, approximately 70-80% of the circular dimers in preparations of lettuce and spinach chloroplast DNA were found to be in a head-to-head conformation. We propose that the head-to-head circular dimers are formed by a recombination event between two circular monomers in the inverted sequence.