Treatment of gently prepared lysates of Escherichia coli with single-strand-specific endonuclease (SI or from mung beans) results in the release of about 90% of the DNA from membranes, as determined by the M band technique. The released DNA has an average molecular weight of about 1.2 X 10(8). Data obtained with endonuclease S1 fit a mathematical model in which substrate sites are at or near membrane attachment sites. Data obtained with pancreatic deoxyribonuclease or x-rays fit a model for double-strand breaks at random sites along the DNA. Fitting data to these models, we estimate that there are 18+/-5 membrane attachment sites. The DNA remaining after S1 nuclease treatment is enriched for the region near the origin of chromosome replication. Therefore, attachment at this region near the origin of chromosome replication. Therefore, attachment at this region appears to be chemically different from that at the other sites along the DNA.