Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) in plants is usually associated with the expression of specific chimeric regions within rearranged mitochondrial genomes. Maize CMS-S plants express high amounts of a 1.6-kb mitochondrial RNA during microspore maturation, which is associated with the observed pollen abortion. This transcript carries two chimeric open reading frames, orf355 and orf77, both unique to CMS-S. CMS-S mitochondria also contain free linear DNA plasmids bearing terminal inverted repeats (TIRs). These TIRs recombine with TIR-homologous sequences that precede orf355/orf77 within the main mitochondrial genome to produce linear ends. Transcription of the 1.6-kb RNA is initiated from a promoter within the TIRs only when they are at linear ends. Reversions of CMS-S to fertility occur in certain nuclear backgrounds and are usually associated with loss of the S plasmids and/or the sterility-associated region. We describe an unusual set of independently recovered revertants from a single maternal lineage that retain both the S plasmids and an intact orf355/orf77 region but which do not produce the 1.6-kb RNA. A 7.3-kb inversion resulting from illegitmate recombination between 14-bp microrepeats has separated the genomic TIR sequences from the CMS-associated region. Although RNAs containing orf355/orf77 can still be detected in the revertants, they are not highly expressed during pollen development and they are no longer initiated from the TIR promoter at a protein-stabilized linear end. They appear instead to be co-transcribed with cytochrome oxidase subunit 2. The 7.3-kb inversion was not detected in CMS-S or in other fertile revertants. Therefore, this inversion appears to be a de novo mutation that has continued to sort out within a single maternal lineage, giving rise to fertile progeny in successive generations.