We present a study of how substituent groups of naturally occurring and modified nucleotide bases affect the degree of hydration of right-handed B-DNA and left-handed Z-DNA. A comparison of poly(dG-dC) and poly(dG-dm5C) titrations with the lipotropic salts of the Hofmeister series infers that the methyl stabilization of cytosines as Z-DNA is primarily a hydrophobic effect. The hydration free energies of various alternating pyrimidine-purine sequences in the two DNA conformations were calculated as solvent free energies from solvent accessible surfaces. Our analysis focused on the N2 amino group of purine bases that sits in the minor groove of the double helix. Removing this amino group from guanine to form inosine (I) destabilizes Z-DNA, while adding this group to adenines to form 2-aminoadenine (A') stabilizes Z-DNA. These predictions were tested by comparing the salt concentrations required to crystallize hexanucleotide sequences that incorporate d(CG), d(CI), d(TA) and d(TA') base pairs as Z-DNA. Combining the current results with our previous analysis of major groove substituents, we derived a thermodynamic cycle that relates the systematic addition, deletion, or substitution of each base substituent to the B- to Z-DNA transition free energy.