The interaction of methylene violet (MV) and 4-bromomethylene violet (BrMV) with calf thymus and supercoiled phi X174 phage RF I DNA is reported. Measurements employing UV-visible absorption spectroscopy and equilibrium dialysis give evidence for the formation of complexes by each dye with DNA in the dark. They covalently bind to DNA, and MV nicks DNA, when the nucleic acid/dye mixtures are irradiated with visible light in a deoxygenated environment. Quantum efficiencies for singlet oxygen formation are 0.27 and 0.25 for MV and BrMV, respectively. A higher value (0.49) is observed for 4-iodomethylene violet (IMV).