Our laboratory is interested in predicting the thermal stability and melting behavior of nucleic acids from knowledge of their sequence. One focus is to understand how sequence, duplex and triplex stabilities, and solution conditions affect the melting behavior of complex DNA structures, such as intramolecular DNA complexes containing triplex and duplex motifs. Nucleic acid oligonucleotides (ODNs), as drugs, present an exquisite selectivity and affinity that can be used in antigene and antisense strategies for the control of gene expression. In this work, we try to answer the following question: How does the molecularity of a DNA complex affect its overall stability and melting behavior? We used a combination of temperature-dependent UV spectroscopy and calorimetric (DSC) techniques to investigate the melting behavior of DNA complexes with a similar helical stem sequence, TC+TC+TC+T/AGAGAGACGCG/CGCGTCTCTCT, but formed with different strand molecularity. We determined standard thermodynamic profiles, and the differential binding of protons and counterions accompanying their unfolding. The formation of a DNA complex is accompanied by a favorable free energy term resulting from the typical compensation of favorable enthalpy-unfavorable entropy contributions. As expected, acidic pH stabilized each complex by allowing protonation of the cytosines in the third strand; however, the percentage of protonation increases as the molecularity decreases. The results help in the design of oligonucleotide sequences as targeting reagents that could effectively react with DNA or RNA sequences involved in human diseases, thereby increasing the feasibility of using the antigene and antisense strategies, respectively, for therapeutic purposes. © 2010 American Chemical Society.