A photoreactive analog of actinomycin (7-azidoactinomycin D) has been used in experiments to probe directly the shuffling hypothesis of Fox and Waring [Fox, K. R., & Waring, M. J. (1984) Nucleic Acids Res. 12, 9271–9285]. According to this theory, actinomycin D molecules initially interact with non-sequence-specific sites on DNA and subsequently “shuffle” along the polymer in a one-dimensional migratory fashion so as to locate their preferred sequence-dependent binding sites. In the study presented here, the drug-DNA complex was allowed to equilibrate (in the dark) for various periods of time, followed by photolysis which renders the complex irreversible and traps the ligand at its instantaneous binding sites. Visualization of the piperidine-labile sites and investigation of how the intensity of reaction at each site changes with time can provide direct confirmation of the shuffling hypothesis. The data reveal that actinomycin D does indeed engage in shuffling along the DNA. After only short equilibration times (20 s) actinomycin D is observed to bind to a variety of sites on the DNA, including many which are not regarded as canonical preferred binding sites at equilibrium. However, after longer periods of equilibration the intensity of reaction is shown to drop as a function of time at nonspecific sites, with corresponding increase at sequence-specific sites. In addition, base sequences which flank the intercalation sites can be seen to play a major role in influencing the binding and sequence specificity of actinomycin. © 1994, American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.