A key feature in adeno-associated virus (AAV) replication is efficient integration of the viral genome into host cell DNA to establish latency when helper virus is absent. The steps involved in this process remain largely uncharacterized, even though AAV integration was first documented 20 years ago. Using a protein--DNA binding method we isolated AAV--cellular junction DNA sequences. The cellular component hybridized to a single restriction fragment in the virus-free parental cell line, and also co-migrated with AAV-specific sequences in numerous latently infected cell lines. Analysis of somatic cell hybrids indicated that this cellular sequence maps to the distal portion of the q arm of human chromosome 19. In situ hybridization of AAV DNA to chromosomes from latently infected cells confirms the physical location of AAV integrations to be q13.4-ter of chromosome 19. Sequence analysis of several independent integration sites shows breakpoints occurring within a 100 bp cellular region. This non-pathogenic parvovirus thus appears to establish viral latency by integrating its DNA specifically into one chromosomal region. Such specific integration is so far unique among the eukaryotic DNA viruses. The incorporation of site-specific integration into AAV vector schemes should make this vector system attractive for human gene therapy approaches.