The construction in bacteriophage lambda of a set of long DNA palindromes with paired changes in the central sequence is described. Identical palindrome centers were previously used by others to test the S-type model for cruciform extrusion in vitro. Long DNA palindromes prevent the propagation of carrier phage lambda on a wild-type host, and the sbcC mutation is sufficient to almost fully alleviate this inviability. The plaque areas produced by the palindrome containing phages were compared on an Escherichia coli sbcC lawn. Central sequence changes had a greater effect upon the plaque area than peripheral changes, implying that the residual palindrome-mediated inviability in E. coli sbcC is center-dependent and could be due to the formation of a cruciform structure. The results argue strongly that intrastrand pairing within palindromes is critical in determining their effects in vivo. In addition, the same data suggests that DNA loops in vivo may sometimes contain two bases only.