The chromatin structures of a variety of plasmids and plasmid constructions, transiently transfected into mouse Ltk- cells using the DEAE-dextran procedure, were studied by micrococcal nuclease digestion of nuclei and Southern hybridization. Although regularly arranged nucleosome-like particles clearly were formed on the transfected DNA, the nucleosome ladders, in some cases with 13-14 bands, were anomalous. Most often, a ladder of DNA fragments with lengths of approximately 300, 500, 700, 900 bp, etc. was generated. In contrast, typical 180-190 bp multiples were generated from bulk cellular or endogenous beta-actin gene chromatin. Very similar results were obtained with all DNA's transfected, and in a variety of cell lines, provided that plasmid replication did not occur. Additionally, after digestion of nuclei, about 90% of the chromatin fragments that contained transfected DNA sequences could not be solubilized at low ionic strength, in contrast with bulk cellular chromatin, suggesting association with nuclear structures or nuclear matrix. The remaining 10% of transfected DNA sequences, arising from soluble chromatin fragments, generated a typical nucleosome ladder. These results are consistent with the idea that assembly of atypical chromatin structures might be induced by proximity to elements of the nuclear pore complex or by nuclear compartmentalization.