Replication origins in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae are identified as autonomous replication sequence (ARS) elements. To examine the effect of origin density on replication initiation, we have analyzed the replication of a plasmid that contains two copies of the same origin, ARS1. The activation of origins and the direction that replication forks move through flanking sequences can be physically determined by analyzing replication intermediates on two-dimensional agarose gels. We find that only one of the two identical ARSs on the plasmid initiates replication on any given plasmid molecule; that is, this close spacing of ARSs results in an apparent interference between the potential origins. Moreover, in the particular plasmid that we constructed, one of the two identical copies of ARS1 is used four times more frequently than the other one. These results show that the plasmid context is critical for determining the preferred origin. This origin preference is also exhibited when the tandem copies of ARS1 are introduced into a yeast chromosome. The sequences responsible for establishing the origin preference have been identified by deletion analysis and are found to reside in a portion of the yeast URA3 gene.