Genomes comprising a pair of separated inverted repeats and called 'amphimers' are reviewed. Amphimeric genomes are observed in a large variety of different organisms, ranging from archaebacteria to mammals. The widespread existence of amphimeric genomes in nature could be due to their particular dynamic structure. Amphimeric genomes containing long inverted segments may provide the only form in which a duplicated segment is stably retained in genomes. Amphimers are often found in amplified subgenomes, indicating that they could promote a special mechanism of DNA replication and amplification. The possible mechanisms of generation, isomerization and replication/amplification of different types of amphimeric genomes are discussed. The study of amphimeric mitochondrial petite genomes of yeast could be a good model system for the study of the role of inverted repeat sequences in genome dynamics.