A 9-kilobase pair CEN4 linear minichromosome constructed in vitro transformed Saccharomyces cerevisiae with high frequency but duplicated or segregated inefficiently in most cells. Stable transformants were only produced by events which fundamentally altered the structure of the minichromosome: elimination of telomeres, alteration of the centromere, or an increase of fivefold or greater in its size. Half of the stable transformants arose via homologous recombination between an intact chromosome IV and the CEN4 minichromosome. This event generated a new chromosome from each arm of chromosome IV. The other "arm" of each new chromosome was identical to one "arm" of the unstable minichromosome. Unlike natural yeast chromosomes, these new chromosomes were telocentric: their centromeres were either 3.9 or 5.4 kilobases from one end of the chromosome. The mitotic stability of the telocentric chromosome derived from the right arm of chromosome IV was determined by a visual assay and found to be comparable to that of natural yeast chromosomes. Both new chromosomes duplicated, paired, and segregated properly in meiosis. Moreover, their structure, as deduced from mobilities in orthogonal field gels, did not change with continued mitotic growth or after passage through meiosis, indicating that they did not give rise to isochromosomes or suffer large deletions or additions. Thus, in S. cerevisiae the close spacing of centromeres and telomeres on a DNA molecule of chromosomal size does not markedly alter the efficiency with which it is maintained. Taken together these data suggest that there is a size threshold below which stable propagation of linear chromosomes is no longer possible.