We have developed a novel plasmid isolation procedure and have adapted it for use on an automated nucleic acid extraction instrument. The protocol is based on the finding that phenol extraction of a 1 M guanidinium thiocyanate solution at pH 4.5 efficiently removes genomic DNA from the aqueous phase, while supercoiled plasmid DNA is retained in the aqueous phase. S1 nuclease digestion of the removed genomic DNA shows that it has been denatured, which presumably confers solubility in the organic phase. The complete automated protocol for plasmid isolation involves pretreatment of bacterial cells successively with lysozyme, RNase A, and proteinase K. Following these digestions, the solution is extracted twice with a phenol/chloroform/water mixture and once with chloroform. Purified plasmid is then collected by isopropanol precipitation. The purified plasmid is essentially free of genomic DNA, RNA, and protein and is a suitable substrate for DNA sequencing and other applications requiring highly pure supercoiled plasmid.