The effects of the rolling-circle mode of replication and the generation of single-stranded DNA (ss DNA) on plasmid deletion formation between short direct repeats in Bacillus subtilis were studied. Deletion units consisting of direct repeats (9, 18, or 27 bp) that do or do not flank inverted repeats (300 bp) were introduced into various plasmid replicons that generate different amounts of ss DNA (from 0% to 40% of the total plasmid DNA). With ss DNA-generating rolling-circle-type plasmids, deletion frequencies between the direct repeats were 3- to 13-fold higher than in plasmids not generating ss DNA. When the direct repeats flanked inverted repeats the deletion frequencies in ss DNA-generating plasmids were increased by as much as 20- to 140-fold. These results support models for deletion formation based on template-switching errors during complementary strand synthesis of rolling-circle-type plasmids. The structural instability (deletion formation between short direct repeats) of the ss DNA-generating plasmid pTA1060 in B. subtilis was very low in the presence of a functional initiation site for complementary strand synthesis (minus origin). This observation suggests that it will be possible to develop stable host-vector cloning systems for B. subtilis.