Using the [3H]trimethylpsoralen photobinding method [Sinden, R.R., Carlson, J.O. & Pettijohn, D.E. (1980) Cell 21, 773-783], a decrease in unrestrained torsional tension of DNA was detected in Bacillus brevis cells when they had entered the sporulation phase. This decrease in superhelicity was found in cells which synthesized the peptide antibiotic tyrocidine and which were stimulated to sporulate. Fluctuations in superhelicity probably reflect a highly complicated picture of tension-relaxing and tension-inducing activities. Addition of tyrocidine to vegetative cells reduced by one-half the torsional tension from DNA, whereas ethidium bromide relaxes DNA completely. Cross-links between DNA and tyrocidine were introduced with ultraviolet light in vitro and in vivo indicating that the modulation of the DNA conformation in the cell may in fact be due to a DNA-tyrocidine interaction. In a growing B. brevis culture exogenous [3H]tyrocidine could only be photobound to DNA after the cells had entered the sporulation phase. Our results could mean that the peptide antibiotic tyrocidine is active in B. brevis on the DNA level as one regulatory factor controlling DNA functions.