We have purified extrachromosomal circular DNAs from adult mouse spleen cells, and cloned into a phage vector the BamHl fragments hybridizing with C mu and S gamma 1 probes. We obtained 52 S mu+S gamma 1+ clones by screening 1.4 million phage clones derived from spleen cells stimulated with bacterial lipopolysaccharide and interleukin 4. We have identified the breakpoints of six clones that contain S gamma 1 and S mu sequences fused in the 5' to 3' orientation. All these switch recombination sites were assigned to the central repetitive sequences of the S mu and S gamma 1 regions. Since the common S mu-S gamma 1 sequences at the recombination sites are at most 2 bases long, typical homologous recombination cannot account for their joining. These findings provide direct evidence that mu-gamma 1 class switching can occur by the looping out and excision of chromosomal DNA, with formation of a circle.