A comparison of the human genome with that of the chimpanzee is an attractive approach to attempts to understand the specificity of a certain phenotype's development. The two karyotypes differ by one chromosome fusion, nine pericentric inversions, and various additions of heterochromatin to chromosomal telomeres. Only the fusion, which gave rise to human chromosome 2, has been characterized at the sequence level. During the present study, we investigated the pericentric inversion by which chimpanzee chromosome 19 differs from human chromosome 17. Fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to identify breakpoint-spanning bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) and plasmid artificial chromosomes (PACs). By sequencing the junction fragments, we localized breakpoints in intergenic regions rich in repetitive elements. Our findings suggest that repeat-mediated nonhomologous recombination has facilitated inversion formation. No addition or deletion of any sequence element was detected at the breakpoints or in the surrounding sequences. Next to the break, at a distance of 10.2-39.1 kb, the following genes were found: NGFR and NXPH3 (on human chromosome 17q21.3) and GUC2D and ALOX15B (on human chromosome 17p13). The inversion affects neither the genomic structure nor the gene-activity state with regard to replication timing of these genes.