Sodium bisulfite reacts with cytosine and 5-methylcytosine, forming the 5,6-dihydrosulfonate adducts which deaminate to the uracil and thymine adducts, respectively. At alkaline pH, the sulfonate groups are then released, generating uracil and thymine. In DNA, the resulting G:U and G:T base mismatches generated are potential sites of mutagenesis. Using a human damage-specific DNA binding protein as a probe, we have found protein-recognizable lesions in bisulfite-treated DNA and poly d(I-C), but not in treated poly d(A-T) or poly d(A-U). Although this suggests that the lesion recognized is cytosine-derived, there was no correlation between the number of uracils induced and the number of binding sites, suggesting that the protein-bound damage is not a uracil-containing mismatch. Modification of the treatment protocol to reduce elimination of the bisulfite from the base adducts increased the level of binding, suggesting that the protein recognizes a base-sulfonate adduct.