In order to understand the specificity of sequences or structures recognized by a recombinase involved in class switch recombination (CSR), we examined the relative CSR efficiency of various switch sequences in artificial CSR constructs that undergo CSR in CH12F3-2 murine B lymphoma line. Since CSR recombination is not specific to switch regions of different isotypes or orientation of S sequences, we examined the efficiency of S sequences of non-mammalian species and artificial sequences which lack several characters of mammal switch sequences: chicken S(mu), Xenopus S(mu), telomere, multiple cloning site (MCS) and unrelated negative control sequence. CSR occurred in chicken S(mu) and MCS with significantly higher efficiency than the negative control. A common character of these two sequences is that they are rich in palindrome and stem-loop structures. However, telomeres, which are G-rich and repetitive but not palindromic, could not serve as switch sequences at all. The AT-rich Xenopus S(mu) sequence was inefficient but capable of CSR. CSR breakpoint distribution suggests that the cleavage may take place preferentially in the proximity of the junctions (neck) between the loop and stem in the secondary structure of the single-stranded S sequence, which can be formed by palindromic sequences. The results suggest that the secondary structure of S-region sequences which is transiently formed during transcription may be necessary for recognition by class switch recombinase.