The organization of the type I interferon (IFN) gene cluster (9p21.3) was studied in a human osteosarcoma cell line (MG63). Array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) showed an amplification of approximately 6-fold which ended at both ends of the gene cluster with a deletion that extended throughout the 9p21.3 band. Spectral karyotyping (SKY) combined with fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) identified an arrangement of the gene cluster in a ladder-like array of 5-7 'bands' spanning a single chromosome termed the 'IFN chromosome'. Chromosome painting revealed that the IFN chromosome is derived from components of chromosomes 4, 8 and 9. Labelling with centromeric probes demonstrated a ladder-like amplification of centromeric 4 and 9 sequences that co-localized with each other and a similar banding pattern of chromosome 4, as well as alternating with the IFN gene clusters. In contrast, centromere 8 was not detected on the IFN chromosome. One of the amplified centromeric 9 bands was identified as the functional centromere based on its location at the chromosome constriction and immunolocalization of the CENP-C protein. A model is presented for the generation of the IFN chromosome that involves breakage-fusion-bridge events.