Of 16 restriction endonucleases known to hydrolyze rare 6- or 8-base recognition sequences that were tested, only SpeI, NotI, AscI, and SfiI generated fragments of chromosomal DNA from Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of bubonic plague, of sufficient length to permit physical analysis by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Of the individual bands detected after single-dimensional PFGE of these digests, the largest sum was obtained with SpeI (3,575.6 +/- 114.6 kb). Of these 41 bands, 3 were found to contain comigrating fragments, as judged by the results of two-dimensional SpeI-ApaI PFGE; addition of these fragments and the three plasmids of the species yielded a refined estimate of 4,397.9 +/- 134.6 kb for the genome. This size was similar for eight strains of diverse geographical origin that exhibited distinct DNA macrorestriction patterns closely related to their biotypes. The high-frequency chromosomal deletion known to exist in nonpigmented mutants (unable to assimilate Fe3+ at 37 degrees C or store hemin at 26 degrees C) was shown by two-dimensional PFGE analysis with SpeI and ApaI or with SfiI and SpeI to be 92.5 and 106 kb in size, respectively. The endpoints of this deletion were precise, and its size was more than sufficient to encode the eight known peptides reported to be absent in nonpigmented mutants. This deletion had not occurred (but was able to do so) in a rare mutant capable of hemin storage but not iron transport.