We have transfected monkey CV-1 cells with non-infectious, linear SV40 DNA, lacking the 72 bp repeat enhancer region. Infectious virus was recovered from this "enhancer trap" upon cotransfection with enhancer DNA segments from various viruses, notably a truncated polyoma enhancer that was integrated as a dimer. Cotransfection of the "enhancer trap" with fragmented DNA of mouse, monkey, or human origin yielded no recombinant virus with integrated cellular sequences, with one possible exception. In some transfection experiments without added viral enhancer DNA, SV40 variants were generated that have a segment of their flanking "late" DNA duplicated to substitute for the deleted 72 bp repeat. In one variant, an 88 bp duplication creates a strong enhancer from this nonenhancing DNA region. Both the polyoma enhancer fragment and the spontaneously created enhancers lack the alternating purines-pyrimidines or "CACA box" suggested to be characteristic for enhancer elements and show only limited homology to the "GTGG(AAATTT)G box."