Actinomycin D (ActD) is a DNA-binding antitumor antibiotic that appears to act in vivo by inhibiting RNA polymerase. The mechanism of DNA binding of ActD has attracted much attention because of its strong preference for 5’-dGpdC-3’ sequences. Binding is thought to involve intercalation of the tricyclic aromatic phenoxazone ring into a GC step, with the two equivalent cyclic pentapeptide lactone substituents lying in the minor groove and making hydrogen bond contacts with the 2-amino groups of the nearest neighbor guanines. Recent studies have indicated, however, that binding is also influenced by next-nearest neighboring bases. We have examined this higher order specificity using 7-azido-actinomycin-D as a photoaffinity probe, and DNA sequencing techniques to quantitatively monitor sites of covalent photoaddition. We found that GC doublets were strongly preferred only if the 5’- flanking base was a pyrimidine and the 3’-flanking base was not cytosine. In addition we observed a previously unreported preference for binding at a GG doublet in the sequence 5’- TGGG-3’. © 1989 Adenine Press.