Poly(dG-m5dC) in phosphate buffer containing 50 mM NaCl and Mg2+ will undergo a reversible thermally driven conversion from the B to the left-handed Z conformation. The temperature at the midpoint of the thermally driven B to Z transition (denoted Tz) is dependent upon the total Mg2+ concentration, with [d(1/Tz)]/(d ln [Mg]) = 0.0134 K-1. The Mg2+ concentration at the midpoint of the equilibrium B to Z transition curve, denoted [Mg]1/2, is dependent on temperature, with (d ln [Mg]1/2)/(d ln T) = -1.02. Binding of the anticancer drug daunomycin to the polymer results in a pronounced increase in Tz, dependent on the molar ratio of added drug. Tz is increased by 71.9 degrees C with nearly saturating amounts of drug bound. Transition profiles are biphasic at less than saturating amounts of bound drug. By experiments monitoring such biphasic curves at a visible wavelength sensitive to the binding of daunomycin, it may be demonstrated that no drug is released until the later phase of the transition. These results are analogous to the effects of intercalating drugs on the thermal denaturation of DNA and indicate that drug molecules preferentially interact with B-form DNA and are redistributed to regions in the B conformation over the course of the transition. Comparative studies show that some intercalators stabilize right-handed DNA more effectively than others. At similar initial binding ratios, the following order, from most to least effective, was experimentally observed: actinomycin greater than daunomycin greater than ethidium greater than proflavin.