A family of DNA loci (DNF28) from the pseudoautosomal region of the human sex chromosomes is characterized by a repeated element (STIR: subtelomeric interspersed repeat) which detects homologous sequences in the telomeric regions of human autosomes by in situ hybridization. Several STIR elements from both the pseudoautosomal region and terminal parts of autosomes were cloned and sequenced. A conserved 350 bp sequence and some characteristic structural differences between the autosomal and pseudoautosomal STIRs were observed. Screening of the DNA sequence databases with a consensus sequence revealed the presence of STIRs in several human loci localized in the terminal parts of different chromosomes. We mapped single copy probes flanking the cloned autosomal STIRs to the subtelomeric parts of six different chromosomes by in situ hybridization and genetic linkage analysis. The linkage data show a greatly increased recombination frequency in the subtelomeric regions of the chromosomes, especially in male meiosis. The STIR elements, specifically located in subtelomeric regions, could play a role in the peculiar recombination properties of these chromosomal regions, e.g. by promoting initiation of pairing at meiosis.