A new approach for the isolation of chromosome-specific subsets from a human genomic yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) library is described. It is based on the hybridization with an Alu polymerase chain reaction (PCR) probe. We screened a 1.5 genome equivalent YAC library of megabase insert size with Alu PCR products amplified from hybrid cell lines containing human chromosome 21, and identified a subset of 63 clones representative of this chromosome. The majority of clones were assigned to chromosome 21 by the presence of specific STSs and in situ hybridization. Twenty-nine of 36 STSs that we tested were detected in the subset, and a contig spanning 20 centimorgans in the genetic map and containing 8 STSs in 4 YACs was identified. The proposed approach can greatly speed efforts to construct physical maps of the human genome.