Circular yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) provide significant advantages for cloning and manipulating large segments of genomic DNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. However, it has been difficult to exploit these advantages, because circular YACs are difficult to isolate and purify. Here we describe a method for purification of large circular YACs that is more reliable compared with previously described protocols. This method has been used to purify YACs up to 600 kb in size. The purified YAC DNA is suitable for restriction enzyme digestion, DNA sequencing and functional studies. For example, YACs carrying full-size genes can be purified from yeast and used for transfection into mammalian cells or for the construction of a synthetic genome that can be used to produce a synthetic cell. This method for isolating high-quality YAC DNA in microgram quantities should be valuable for functional and synthetic genomic studies. The entire protocol takes ∼3 d to complete.