Integrons are DNA elements which generally include one or more discrete gene cassettes inserted at a specific site. We have recently proposed a model for the acquisition and dissemination of genes found in the insert region of integrons, which requires the existence of circularized gene cassettes. Evidence for the existence of covalently closed circular molecules consisting of one or more gene cassettes has now been obtained. Low levels of small molecules which hybridize to probes specific for individual gene cassettes were detected in plasmid DNA isolated from cells containing a plasmid which includes an integron fragment with three gene cassettes aacC1, orfE and aadA2. These molecules were only detected when the gene encoding the integron DNA integrase was also present and are thus products of site-specific cassette excision. The excised cassettes have been shown to be in the form of covalently closed supercoiled circles, by digestion with restriction enzymes exonuclease III and DNase I. The circular excision products detected included either one cassette, aadA2 or orfE, two cassettes, aacC1 and orfE or all three cassettes. The predicted sequence of the recombinant junction in the excised aadA2 cassette confirmed that excision was precise. The predicted unique sequences of the 59-base elements associated with individual genes in the circular cassette form were compiled, and the sequences of the seven-base core sites which flank 59-base elements are now, with few exceptions, exact inverted repeats.