We have exploited the concept of multivalency in the context of DNA recognition, using novel chemistry to synthesize a new type of bis-intercalator with unusual sequence-selectivity. Bis-intercalation has been observed previously, but design principles for de novo construction of such molecules are not known. Our compounds feature two aromatic moieties projecting from a rigid, polynorbornane-based scaffold. The length and character of the backbone as well as the identity of the intercalators were varied, resulting in mono- or divalent recognition of the double helix with varying affinity. Our lead compound proved to be a moderately sequence-selective bis-intercalator with an unwinding angle of 27 degrees and a binding constant of about 8 microM. 9-aminoacridine rings were preferred over acridine carboxamides or naphthalimides, and a rigid -polynorbornane scaffold was superior to a -polynorbornane. The flexibility of the linker connecting the rings to the scaffold, although less influential, could affect the strength and character of the DNA binding.