All stable, naturally occurring circular yeast DNA plasmids contain a pair of long, nontandem inverted repeats that undergo frequent reciprocal recombination. This yields two plasmid inversion isomers that exist in the cell in equal numbers. In the 2 mu circle plasmid of S. cerevisiae such inversion is catalyzed by a plasmid-encoded site-specific recombinase, FLP. We show that the site-specific recombination system of 2 mu circle enables the plasmid to increase its mean intracellular copy number in yeast cells growing under nonselective conditions. This apparently occurs by a FLP-induced transient shift in the mode of replication from theta to double rolling circle as initially proposed by Futcher. This capability may ensure stable maintenance of the plasmid by enabling it to correct downward deviations in copy number that result from imprecision of the plasmid-encoded partitioning system.