A pair of complementary oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) uniformly substituted with 2-amino-adenine (A') in place of adenine and 2-thiothymine (T') in place of thymine did not hybridize to each other but did form very stable hybrids with unmodified complementary ODNs. These unusual properties were a consequence of the hydrogen-bonding properties of the two base analogs. Thermal denaturation studies of short duplexes which contained these bases demonstrated that the A'-T and A-T' doublets formed stable base pairs whereas the A'-T' doublet acted like a mismatch. Complementary ODNs substituted with these base analogs are referred to as SBC or selectively binding complementary ODNs. When used as a pair, these single-stranded ODNs invaded the ends of homologous duplexes and formed stable three-arm junctions under conditions where unmodified ODNs failed to give a product. SBC ODNs have a fundamental thermodynamic advantage in hybridizing to short segments of double-stranded nucleic acid and represent a new approach for the design of oligomeric probes and antisense agents. Many secondary structure features present in long single-stranded nucleic acids should be accessible to these reagents.