9-Aminoacridine was found to inhibit dNTP incorporation into DNA homopolymer duplexes by phage T4 DNA polymerase in vitro. Systematic variation of the molar ratio of 9-aminoacridine to DNA, to DNA polymerase, and to DNA precursors demonstrated that this inhibition at 9-aminoacridine concentrations below 10 microM was mainly due to interaction of 9-aminoacridine with the DNA and suggested that the basis for the preferential inhibition of incorrect precursor incorporation was destabilization of the DNA growing point. Consistent with destabilization, 9-aminoacridine stimulated the hydrolysis of correctly base paired DNA by the 3'-5' exonuclease activity of phage T4 DNA polymerase. This is the first indication to my knowledge that an intercalating dye destabilizes the DNA growing point, whereas it raises the overall Tm of the DNA. At 9-aminoacridine concentrations above 10 microM overall incorporation of dNTPs was inhibited by 9-aminoacridine interaction with the DNA polymerase. A possible explanation for the induction of both deletion and addition frameshift mutations by 9-aminoacridine during DNA biosynthesis is discussed in light of growing-point destabilization.