The interaction of the minor groove binding ligand Hoechst 33258 (Hoe) with natural DNA was investigated by high resolution titration rotational viscometry. Analysis of the concomitant DNA conformational changes was performed with two DNA samples of sufficiently different molar mass M, at 4 degrees C, 22 degrees C and 40 degrees C, for Hoe/DNA-P ratios below r = 0.02. In this narrow r range several interaction modes could be resolved. The measured conformational changes were quantified in terms of relative changes of both apparent DNA persistence length, delta a/a, and hydrodynamically operative DNA contour length, deltaL/L. Delta a/a(r) primarily is a measure of ligand-induced DNA helix stiffening, but both, delta a/a(r) and deltaL/L(r), generally depend also on ligand binding induced DNA bending or DNA unbending. The essential difference obviously is that delta a/a(r) is influenced by the randomly distributed helix bends and deltaL/L(r) by phased ones. The measurements performed at different temperatures deliver informations about existence and temperature dependent abolition of intrinsic helix curvature. Both Hoe and netropsin (Nt) prefer binding to AT rich DNA segments, which are candidates for intrinsic DNA helix bends. But our data for Hoe interaction with calf thymus DNA (ctDNA) show characteristic differences to those for Nt-ctDNA interaction. Especially for Hoe, the mode of highest affinity is saturated already at a ligand concentration of roughly 1 nM (r approximately = 0.0015 Hoe/DNA-P). It exhibits an unusually strong temperature dependence of the conformational DNA response. A Hoe-Nt competition experiment shows that Hoe binding to the sites of the very first Hoe mode is almost unaffected by bound Nt. But Hoe binding to the sites of the following Hoe modes does not occur due to the competition with Nt. Thus this mode of strongest Hoe-DNA interaction reflects a unique mechanism, possibly of high relevance for gene regulatory systems.