We have investigated the organization and complexity of alpha satellite DNA on chromosomes 10 and 12 by restriction endonuclease mapping, in situ hybridization (ISH), and DNA-sequencing methods. Alpha satellite DNA on both chromosomes displays a basic dimeric organization, revealed as a 6- and an 8-mer higher-order repeat (HOR) unit on chromosome 10 and as an 8-mer HOR on chromosome 12. While these HORs show complete chromosome specificity under high-stringency ISH conditions, they recognize an identical set of chromosomes under lower stringencies. At the nucleotide sequence level, both chromosome 10 HORs are 50% identical to the HOR on chromosome 12 and to all other alpha satellite DNA sequences from the in situ cross-hybridizing chromosomes, with the exception of chromosome 6. An 80% identity between chromosome 6- and chromosome 10-derived alphoid sequences was observed. These data suggest that the alphoid DNA on chromosomes 6 and 10 may represent a distinct subclass of the dimeric subfamily. These sequences are proposed to be present, along with the more typical dimeric alpha satellite sequences, on a number of different human chromosomes.