The bz-m1 mutation in maize was one of the first to arise by direct transposition of the chromosome-breaking Ds element from its original or 'standard' location in chromosome 9S to a known locus in the same chromosome arm. Thus, elucidation of its structure should shed light on the nature of the original Ds element described by McClintock in 1948. The Ds insertion in bz-m1 has been reported to be only 1.2 kb long-much shorter than other chromosome-breaking Ds elements that have been described. We have characterized here the Ds element in our bz-m1 stocks and have confirmed by genetic and molecular tests that, in the presence of Ac, it acts as a chromosome breaker. The Ds insertion at bz-m1 is 1260 bp long. Besides its normal 5' and 3' ends, it contains an internal 3' end at the same junction as the chromosome-breaking double Ds element that has been found in several sh mutations. Thus, it appears to have arisen from the 4.1-kb double Ds by internal deletion of 2.9 kb. Because the element has lost one internal 5' end, but retains the chromosome-breaking properties of double Ds, we have named it sesqui-Ds (sDs). The origin, structure and properties of sDs vis-à-vis double Ds support the hypothesis that double Ds corresponds to the chromosome-breaking Ds element at the 'standard' location in 9S.