The internal mobility of the deoxyribose H2'-H2" and base C(H5)-C(H6) and T(CH3)-T(H6) vectors has been investigated by means of time-dependent nuclear Overhauser enhancement (NOE) measurements in a B DNA hexamer and undecamer. Cross-relaxation rates between these proton pairs are determined from the initial slopes of the time development of the NOEs, and, as the interproton distances between these proton pairs are fixed, apparent correlation times for the 3 interproton vectors are calculated from the cross-relaxation rate data. It is shown that there is little residue to residue variation in the cross-relaxation rates of the interproton vectors within each oligonucleotide, that the mean apparent correlation times of the C(H5)-C(H6) and T(CH3)-T(H6) vectors are approximately equal and significantly greater than that of the H2'-H2" vectors, and that the data for the H2'-H2" vectors of both oligonucleotides and the C(H5)-C(H6) and T(CH3)-T(H6) vectors of the undecamer cannot be accounted for by isotropic tumbling alone. The data are analysed in terms of a two motion model with isotropic tumbling and a single internal motion. The relaxation time of the internal motion at 23 degrees C is less than or equal to 1 ns for the H2'-H2" vectors of both oligonucleotides and less than or equal to 3 ns for the C(H5)-C(H6) and T(CH3)-T(H6) vectors of the undecamer. In the case of the H2'-H2" vectors, however, the amplitude of the internal motion is found to be too large to be compatible with the known stereochemistry of DNA. This finding can only be explained by invoking additional degrees of internal freedom with a larger number of internal motions of small amplitude of the type deduced from the analysis of crystallographic thermal factors [(1984) J. Mol. Biol. 173, 361-388].