A series of sulfonate esters that are attached to a noncationic minor-groove-binding N-methylpyrrole dipeptide (Lex) related to netrospin have been synthesized. The compounds prepared differ in two respects: (1) the length [(CH2)2 vs (CH2)8] of the tether between the DNA affinity binding portion of the molecule and the sulfonate ester and (2) whether a methyl group [MeOSO2(CH2)n-Lex] or the dipeptide including the aliphatic tether [MeSO2O(CH2)n-Lex] is covalently transferred to the DNA. The DNA-cleavage patterns of these bimolecular alkylating compounds have been mapped in 32P-end-labeled restriction fragments using neutral thermal hydrolysis and alkali treatment to expose single-strand breaks at bases with thermally labile modifications. In contrast to the alkylation of DNA by simple alkyl alkanesulfonate esters, that predominantly yield major-groove alkylation at N7-guanine, the modification of DNA by MeOSO2(CH2)n-Lex and MeSO2O(CH2)n-Lex occurs primarily at N3-adenine residues associated with previously footprinted Lex DNA affinity binding regions. The ratio for the formation of N3-methyladenine (minor groove) to N7-methylguanine (major groove) in calf thymus DNA is 1:7 for dimethyl sulfate, while only the former adenine product is observed with MeSO2O(CH2)n-Lex indicating the change in groove specificity. DNA cleavage by MeOSO2(CH2)n-Lex and MeSO2O(CH2)n-Lex is efficiently inhibited by the coaddition of distamycin; however, only the DNA damage generated by the latter is blocked by NaCl. As expected, increasing the length of the (CH2)n tether from n = 2 to n = 8 moves the alkylation site by 1-2 base pairs further from the affinity binding domain. Finally, a comparison of the methylation patterns of MeOSO2(CH2)n-Lex as a function of tether length provides an insight into Lex sequence and orientational preferences.