Modeling, x-ray diffraction, and solution studies have contributed to the understanding of interactions between polyamines and nucleic acids. Polyamines stabilize a variety of unusual DNA structures and conformations in vitro, including both the left-handed Z and the right-handed A DNA. In addition, polyamines condense DNA and may be important in bending specific sequences. Investigations into the mechanisms of these effects provide support for both specific and nonspecific interactions between polyamines and DNA. Although exact relationships between the binding of polyamines and conformational changes in nucleic acids are still being clarified, polyamines remain important candidates for regulators of DNA conformation in vivo.