The effects of reducing agents, such as 2-mercaptoethanol, dithiothreitol, L-ascorbic acid, or sodium borohydride, and oxidizing agents, such as hydrogen peroxide or dehydroascorbic acid, on the in vitro action of bleomycin were investigated. After the incubation of DNA with a low concentration of bleomycin and a reducing or oxidizing agent, single strand breaks were mainly caused in the DNA molecules. The degradation of DNA was largely prevented by the removal of oxygen, or by the addition of divalent cations or of S-(2-aminoethyl)isothiuronium bromide hydrobromide, a radical scavenger, to the incubation mixture. Preincubation of bleomycin with these reducing or oxidizing agents reduced the DNA-degrading activity of the antibiotic. However, this reduction in activity was observed even in the absence of oxygen, or in preincubation mixture supplemented with radical scavenger.