Tandem dinucleotide repeats of GT or AC [(GT)n/(AC)n] where n greater than or equal to 14 are highly polymorphic and other simple repeats such as (CT)n/(AG)n and (A)n(T)n are also polymorphic. The uniformity of these sequences precludes a mechanistic differentiation between recombination or polymerase slippage. Since (GT)n/(AC)n or (CT)n/(AG)n segments of desired size were not available in our gene of interest, we analyzed a 187+ bp segment in the factor IX gene with multiple short dinucleotide repeats. This sequence contains a melody of short dinucleotide repeats which includes a 142+ bp segment of alternating purines and pyrimidines. Amplification of this sequence in 167 individuals of different ethnicity and direct sequencing of 106 individuals (23 kb of sequence) failed to reveal simple variation in the number of tandem dinucleotide repeats. However, polymorphism in the 142+ alternating purine and pyrimidine segment (RY)n was detected due to the insertion of two related repeat units of 24 bp (A) and 26 bp (B). Two previously described alleles (AB, A2B2) and two novel presumptive recombinants were found (A2B, A3B2) for a total of four alleles. An analysis of (RY)n segments in GenBank revealed an extraordinary enrichment in the genome of mammals, invertebrates, and yeast and a marked reduction in bacteria. Rodent (RY)n were larger and substantially more frequent than those in primates. When a second (RY)n was examined in the exon 8 of human factor IX gene, it was polymorphic at short repeats of (GT)n/(AC)n (n = 3-6) in Western Europeans and Koreans. In addition, an (RY)n in the dystrophin gene had four polymorphic alleles involving AT and GT dinucleotides. Thus (RY)n segments appear to be abundant and highly polymorphic. The asymmetric patterns of polymorphism and the absence of simple dinucleotide variation in 23 kb of sequence are compatible with recombination or sister chromatid exchange, but not polymerase slippage. By inference, recombination should underlie the polymorphisms at (GT)n/(AC)n since they are a subset of (RY)n and they commonly occur in the context of longer (RY)n.