We have developed a fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) method to examine the structure of both natural chromosomes and small artificial chromosomes during the mitotic cycle of budding yeast. Our results suggest that the pairing of sister chromatids: (a) occurs near the centromere and at multiple places along the chromosome arm as has been observed in other eukaryotic cells; (b) is maintained in the absence of catenation between sister DNA molecules; and (c) is independent of large blocks of repetitive DNA commonly associated with heterochromatin. Condensation of a unique region of chromosome XVI and the highly repetitive ribosomal DNA (rDNA) cluster from chromosome XII were also examined in budding yeast. Interphase chromosomes were condensed 80-fold relative to B form DNA, similar to what has been observed in other eukaryotes, suggesting that the structure of interphase chromosomes may be conserved among eukaryotes. While additional condensation of budding yeast chromosomes were observed during mitosis, the level of condensation was less than that observed for human mitotic chromosomes. At most stages of the cell cycle, both unique and repetitive sequences were either condensed or decondensed. However, in cells arrested in late mitosis (M) by a cdc15 mutation, the unique DNA appeared decondensed while the repetitive rDNA region appeared condensed, suggesting that the condensation state of separate regions of the genome may be regulated differently. The ability to monitor the pairing and condensation of sister chromatids in budding yeast should facilitate the molecular analysis of these processes as well as provide two new landmarks for evaluating the function of important cell cycle regulators like p34 kinases and cyclins. Finally our FISH method provides a new tool to analyze centromeres, telomeres, and gene expression in budding yeast.