The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent origin of plasmid replication (oriP) contains two essential regions, a family of repeats with 20 imperfect copies of a 30-bp sequence and a dyad symmetry element with four similar 30-bp repeats. Each of the repeats has an internal palindromic sequence and can bind EBNA 1, a protein that together with oriP constitutes the only viral element necessary for EBV maintenance and replication. Using single-strand-specific nucleases, we have probed plasmids containing oriP-derived sequences for the presence of secondary structural elements. Multiple single-stranded structures were detected within the oriP region. Of the two essential elements of oriP, the family of repeats seemed to extrude these structures at a much higher frequency than did sequences within the dyad symmetry region. Though negative supercoiling was found to stabilize the single-stranded structures, they showed significant stability even after linearization of the oriP plasmids. Two major single-stranded structures detected involved approximately 12 bp of DNA. These loci could be transiently unwound regions that form because of negative supercoiling and the high A + T content of this region of DNA, or they could be cruciform structures extruded within the palindromic sequences of oriP that may be important sites for protein-DNA interactions in the EBV oriP.