An in vitro runoff transcription assay of total genomic DNA was developed. As an example of use of this assay, analysis of a highly repetitive sequence in the cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou) is described. Total genomic DNA of the cherry salmon was completely digested with Hpa 1, whose site is known to be in the tRNA-unrelated region of the cherry salmon Hpa 1 family. On transcription of the digested DNA in a HeLa cell extract, a discrete-sized RNA of about 100 nucleotides, constituting 70% of the transcripts, was produced, whereas on transcription of the undigested total DNA, only smeared RNA was obtained. In a fingerprint, the oligonucleotides of the discrete transcript from the digested total DNA were very distinct and exactly corresponded to those of a transcript from an Hpa 1 digest of a cloned DNA, but with few extra oligonucleotides. These results showed that the cherry salmon Hpa 1 family constitutes a major repetitive family in the genome of the cherry salmon. For determination of the distribution of the salmonid Hpa 1 family in other salmonid species, the same analysis was applied to DNAs from the chum salmon (Onchorhynchus keta), brown trout (Salmo trutta), Japanese common charr (Salvelinus leucomaenis pluvius), and Japanese huchen (Hucho perryi). The results showed that the salmonid Hpa 1 family is widespread in the genomes of salmonid species. A method and equations are also presented for estimating the relationship between the ratio of a given repetitive family to all the Pol III genes and its average sequence divergence by calculating the molar ratio of the runoff transcript to all the in vitro Pol III transcripts.