Null hpr1 delta strains show a large increase (up to 2000-fold) over wild type in the frequency of occurrence of deletions between direct repeats on three different chromosomes. However, we show that hpr1 delta mutations have little or no effect on reciprocal exchange, gene conversion or unequal sister chromatid exchange, as determined using intrachromosomal, interchromosomal and plasmid-chromosome assay systems. A novel intrachromosomal recombination system has allowed us to determine that over 95% of deletions in hpr1 delta strains do not occur by reciprocal exchange. On the other hand, hpr1 delta strains show chromosome loss frequencies of up to 100 times the wild-type level. Our results suggest that yeast cells have a very efficient non-conservative recombination mechanism, dependent on RAD1 and RAD52, that causes deletions between direct DNA repeats, and this mechanism is strongly stimulated in hpr1 delta strains. The results indicate that the Hpr1 protein is required for stability of DNA repeats and chromosomes. We propose that in the absence of the Hpr1 protein the cell destabilizes the genome by allowing the initiation of events that lead to deletions of sequences between repeats, and to chromosome instability. We discuss the roles that proteins such as Hpr1 have in maintaining direct repeats and in preventing non-conservative recombination and consider the importance of these functions for chromosome stability.