Multicopy single-stranded DNA (msDNA) molecules consist of single-stranded DNA covalently linked to RNA. Such molecules are encoded by genetic elements called retrons. Unlike other retrons, retron EC83 isolated from Escherichia coli 161 produces RNA-free msDNA by site-specific cleavage of msDNA at 5'-TTGA/A-3', where the slash indicates the cleavage site. In order to investigate factors responsible for the msDNA cleavage, retron EC83 was treated with hydroxylamine and colonies were screened for cleavage-negative mutants. We isolated three mutants which were defective in msDNA cleavage and produced RNA-linked msDNA. They were all affected in msd, a gene for msDNA, with a base substitution at the bottom part of the msDNA stem. In contrast, base substitution at and around the cleavage site has no marked effect on msDNA synthesis or its cleavage. From these results, we concluded that the nucleotides at the bottom of the msDNA stem, but not the nucleotides at the cleavage site, play a major role in the recognition and cleavage of msDNA EC83.