This work tested the hypothesis that the content of spontaneous micronuclei in lymphocytes in an apparently healthy normal human subject, who exhibited an unusually high micronucleus frequency, was non-random. Several DNA probes were used in fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH), beginning with a probe generated from the subject's micronuclei. Micronuclei obtained from peripheral blood lymphocytes by microdissection were subjected to random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD-PCR), and a unique PCR product was then used to isolate a cosmid clone from a human genomic library. This clone hybridized to chromosome 2. Subsequently, commercial probes were included in FISH analyses of micronuclei from the subject and age- and sex-matched controls. No significant differences were found between subject and controls in the percentages of micronuclei hybridizing with a centromere probe for the X chromosome or a painting probe for chromosome 3. However, the subject had a very highly significant increase (p<0.0001) in chromosome 2 in micronuclei over a level that might be expected to be present by chance. Characterization of micronuclei may be a promising tool in studies of mechanisms of inherited or induced chromosome instability. The strength of the strategy employed in this study is that, by characterizing the chromosomes present in micronuclei, this work has advanced from an observation of chromosomal instability to a foundation for study of the mechanism underlying the observation.