The role of d(GATC) sites in determining the efficiency of methyl-directed mismatch repair in Escherichia coli was investigated. Transfection of host bacteria, both proficient and deficient in mismatch repair, with a series of artificially constructed M13 heteroduplexes showed that a decrease in the total number of d(GATC) sequences within these vectors lowered the efficiency of repair in vivo. Single hemimethylated d(GATC) sequences were still able to direct the correction event to the unmethylated strand, providing that the mismatch to d(GATC) site distance was shorter than approximately 1 kb. In excess of this distance, the effect of hemimethylated d(GATC) sites on mismatch correction was almost unnoticeable. The directionality of the repair event could be dictated by d(GATC) sequences situated both upstream and downstream of the mispair, suggesting that this important antimutagenic pathway can proceed bidirectionally.