Optical melting was used to determine the stabilities of three series of RNA oligomers containing tandem XU base pairs, GGCXUGCC (5'XU3'), GGCUXGCC (5'UX3') and GGCXXGGC/CCGUUCCG (5'XX3'), where X is either A, G or I (inosine). The helices containing tandem AU base pairs were the most stable in the first two series (5'XU3' and 5'UX3'), with an average melting temperature approximately 11 degrees C higher than the helices with tandem 5'GU3' base pairs and 25 degrees C higher than the helices with tandem 5'IU3' base pairs. For the third series (5'XX3'), the helix containing tandem GG is the most stable, with an average melting temperature approximately 2 degrees C higher than the helix with tandem AA base pairs and approximately 24 degrees C higher than the helix with tandem II base pairs. The thermodynamic stability of the oligomers with tandem IU base pairs was also investigated as a function of magnesium ion concentration. As with normal A-U or G-U tandem duplexes, the data could best be interpreted as non-specific binding of magnesium ions to the inosine-containing RNA oligonucleotides.