The base pairs in double helical nucleic acids have been compared to see how they can be recognized by proteins. We conclude that a single hydrogen bond is inadequate for uniquely identifying any particular base pair, as this leads to numerous degeneracies. However, using two hydrogen bonds, fidelity of base pair recognition may be achieved. We propose specific amino-acid side chain interactions involving two hydrogen bonds as a component of the recognition system for base pairs. In the major groove we suggest that asparagine or glutamine binds to adenine of the base pair or arginine binds to guanine. In the minor groove, we suggest an interaction between asparagine or glutamine with guanine of the base pair. We also discuss the role that ions and other amino-acid side chains may play in recognition interactions.