We have examined the effects of base sequence on nucleosome array formation using randomly selected chicken genomic DNA sequences. DNA clones were assembled into chromatin under identical conditions using a defined in vitro system capable of generating physiologically spaced nucleosomes on some sequences. The nucleosome arrangements in native chromatin on the selected sequences were also examined in liver nuclei. Variations in nucleosome ladders were found among the different sequences that were similar in vitro and in nuclei. Differences in both the degree of regularity of nucleosome arrays and in the value of the nucleosome repeat length were observed. Analysis of an approximately 100 kilobase-pair contiguous region using cosmid clones suggested that well-ordered regions of chromatin, generally less than two kilobase-pairs in extent, alternate with less-ordered regions. This mosaic arrangement for chromatin organization appears to be largely a consequence of information encoded in the DNA base sequence. Nucleosome ordering with a 210 base-pair periodicity in a highly ordered ten-nucleosome array appeared to result from linker histone-dependent alignment with respect to each of two positioned nucleosomes, approximately 1000 base-pairs apart.