The detailed definition of the structure of DNA in chromosomes and in interphase chromatin is important for correlating the structure of the genetic material with various states of physiological activity. A general approach to developing specific reagents for a variety of such studies in solution and in tissues is to combine a chemically specific organic cation with the electron-opaque phosphotungstic acid (PTA) molecule. The reagent described in this paper was made from the interaction of acriflavine and phosphotungstic acid. The acriflavine-PTA complex (a) displays some unique absorption and fluorescence properties, (b) binds specifically to DNA and RNA by intercalation of the acriflavine moiety, and (c) is electron opaque. In addition, it binds to double-stranded synthetic polynucleotides, but not to a variety of proteins, nucleoproteins, or polysaccharides.

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