Furamidine and related diamidines represent a promising series of drugs active against widespread parasites, in particular the Pneumocystic carinii pathogen. In this series, the phenylfuranbenzimidazole diamidine derivative DB293 was recently identified as the first unfused aromatic dication capable of forming stacked dimers in the DNA minor groove of GC-containing sequences. Here we present a detailed biochemical and biophysical characterization of the DNA sequence recognition properties of DB293. Three complementary footprinting techniques using DNase I, Fe(II)-EDTA, and an anthraquinone photonuclease were employed to locate binding sites for DB293 in different DNA restriction fragments. Two categories of sites were identified by DNase I footprinting: (i) 4/5 bp sequences containing contiguous A.T pairs, such as 5'-AAAA and 5'-ATTA; and (ii) sequences including the motif 5'-ATGA.5'-TCAT. In particular, a 13-bp sequence including two contiguous ATGA motifs provided a highly preferential recognition site for DB293. Quantitative footprinting analysis revealed better occupancy of the 5'-ATGA site compared to the AT-rich sites. Preferential binding of DB293 to ATGA sites was also observed with other DNA fragments and was confirmed independently by means of hydroxyl radical footprinting generated by the Fe(II)-EDTA system, as well as by a photofootprinting approach using the probe anthraquinone-2-sulfonate (AQS). In addition, this photosensitive reagent revealed the presence of sites of enhanced cutting specific to DB293. This molecule, but not other minor groove binders such as netropsin, induces specific local structural changes in DNA near certain binding sites, as independently shown by DNase I and the AQS probe. Recognition of the ATGA sequence by DB293 was investigated further using melting temperature experiments and surface plasmon resonance (SPR). The use of different hairpin oligonucleotides showed that DB293 can interact with AT sites via the formation of 1:1 drug-DNA complexes but binds much more strongly, and cooperatively, to ATGA-containing sequences to form 2:1 drug-DNA complexes. DB293 binds strongly to ATGA sequences with no significant context dependence but is highly sensitive to the orientation of the target sequence. The formation of 2:1 DB293/DNA complexes is abolished by reversing the sequence 5'-ATGA-->3'-ATGA, indicating that directionality plays an important role in the drug-DNA recognition process. Similarly, a single mutation in the A[T-->G]GA sequence is very detrimental to the dimer interactions of DB293. From the complementary footprinting and SPR data, the 5'-ATGA sequence is identified as being a highly favored dimer binding site for DB293. The data provide clues for delineating a recognition code for diamidine-type minor groove binding agents, and ultimately to guide the rational design of gene regulatory molecules targeted to specific sites of the genetic material.