In the murine T cell receptor delta locus, V(D)J recombination events frequently involve the D2 and J1 elements. Here we report the presence of double-strand breaks at recombination signals flanking D2 in approximately 2% of thymus DNA. An excised linear species containing the sequences between D2 and J1 and a circular product of the joining of D2 and J1 recombination signals were also found. Although broken molecules with signal ends were detected, no species with coding ends could be identified. Observation of these broken molecules in thymus, but not in liver or spleen, provides the first direct evidence for an association between specific cleavage of chromosomal DNA and recombination in mammalian cells, and supports a breakage-reunion model of V(D)J recombination.