The nucleolus is a highly specialized nuclear domain where ribosomal DNA (rDNA) is transcribed and preribosomes are assembled. We investigated the molecular organization of the human lymphocyte nucleolus by fluorescence in situ hybridization and confocal laser scanning microscopy and found that transcribed rDNA and nontranscribed ribosomal intergenic spacer (IGS) sequences colocalized to discrete regions frequently on the nucleolar periphery of phytohemagglutinin-stimulated cells. The 5S rDNA gene cluster located on the long arm of chromosome 1 was not regularly associated with the nucleolus. Short interspersed (SINE) Alu elements detected by BLUR 11 were distributed diffusely throughout the nucleus but were severely underrepresented in the nucleolus, whereas an Alu element subcloned from the IGS detected sequences enriched in the nucleolus but sparsely represented in the remainder of the nucleus. In contrast, long interspersed (LINE) Kpn elements, which were located at the nucleolus, were not found in rDNA but were identified outside the ribosomal gene complex on the short arm of at least one acrocentric chromosome. A human chromosome 21-derived alphoid sequence that hybridized to the centromere was localized outside but near the nucleolus, and nonribosomal DNA consisting of a tandemly repeated simple sequence cluster derived from the short arm of chromosome 15 was organized in a compact fashion in the nucleolus. Our study provides new insight into the content and structure of the human nucleolus and illustrates that the unique organization of repetitive DNA on the acrocentric chromosome short arms is reflected in the topographic organization of the nucleolus.