Abstract We probed the structure of mammalian repetitive DNAs with a site-specific mammalian endodeoxyribonuclease, which we recently identified, and which apparently represents a common enzyme activity among the mammals (McKenna et al., 1981). With several of the DNAs (e.g. mouse satellite, guinea pig β-satellite, variable repeated spacer DNA from mouse ribosomal genes and primate alphoid sequences), the endonuclease activity gave highly specific cleavage patterns when the digestion products were analyzed by gel electrophoresis. These patterns were not always identical to those produced by microbial restriction enzymes. However, in other cases (e.g. bovid and caprid satellites and guinea pig α-satellite) the repetitive DNAs appeared to be degraded randomly. Thus, the mammalian enzyme reveals structural features of the repetitive sequences that are not rendered immediately obvious by microbial restriction enzyme analysis. Evidence from mapping data presented here suggests that the mammalian site-specific endonucleases are not sequence specific but have special affinity for imperfect or hyphenated palindromic sequences in repetitive DNAs and in other eukaryotic DNA sequences.