The purpose of this study was to characterize the ternary complexes formed in the reaction of cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (II) (cis-DDP) and nucleic acids, in the presence of the intercalating compound ethidium bromide (EtBr). In these ternary complexes, some EtBr is tightly bound to the nucleic acids. Tight binding is defined by resistance to extraction with butanol, assayed by filtration at acid pH or thin layer chromatography at basic pH. These ternary complexes are formed with double stranded but not with single stranded nucleic acids. They are not formed if cis-DDP is replaced by transdiamminedichloroplatinum(II). The amount of tightly bound EtBr depends upon the sequence of the nucleic acid, being larger with poly (dG-dC).poly(dG-dC) than with poly(dG).poly(dC). Spectroscopic results support the hypothesis that the tight binding of the dye is due to the formation of a bidentate adduct (guanine-EtBr)cis-platin. The visible spectrum of the ternary complexes is blue-shifted as compared to that of EtBr intercalated between the base pairs of unplatinated DNA and it depends upon the conformation of the ternary complex. The fluorescence quantum yield of the ternary complexes is lower than that of free EtBr in water. Tightly bound EtBr stabilizes strongly the B form versus the Z form of the ternary complex poly(dG-dC)-Pt-EtBr and slows down the transition from the B form towards the Z form. The sequence specificity of cis-DDP binding to a DNA restriction fragment in the absence or presence of EtBr is mapped by means of the 3'----5' exonuclease activity of T4 DNA polymerase. In the absence of the dye, all the d(GpG) sites and all the d(ApG) sites but one in the sequence d(TpGpApGpC) are platinated. The d(GpA) sites are not platinated. In the presence of EtBr, some new sites are detected. These results might help to explain the synergism for drugs used in combination with cis-DDP and in the design of new chemotherapeutic agents.