The chromosomal origins and in some cases the molecular composition of 26 autosomal supernumerary marker chromosomes (SMC) were identified using combined fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques. Fifteen were de novo, 4 maternally and 2 paternally transmitted and in 5 cases the parental origin is not known. Eleven cases were non-mosaic and fifteen cases had SMC cell lines ranging from 8-87%. Ten cases were ascertained prenatally, nine postnatally with abnormal phenotypes, three with poor reproductive histories and four co-incidentally. Five SMC were small rings from chromosomes 3, 6 (2 cases), 20 and 21; 8 were bisatellited from chromosomes 13/21 (4 cases), 14 (3 cases) and 14/22 (1 case). The remaining 13 appeared to be minutes comprising centromeric material only from chromosomes 1, 4, 12, 13/21 (2 cases), 14 (3 cases), 16 (2 cases), 19; 5/19, and a centric fusion involving 13 or 21 and 14. Euchromatin was detected in 9 out of 18 SMC tested with paints and/or PCR, and abnormal phenotypes were most commonly observed in patients with small ring shaped SMCs containing euchromatic sequences. Uniparental paternal isodisomy (UPD) for chromosome 6 was detected in one patient but was the only example of UPD for the normal homologues in association with an autosomal SMC in an overall total of 30 cases examined.