Recent advances in DNA synthesis methods have made it possible to carry out single-crystal x-ray analyses of double-stranded DNA molecules of predetermined sequence, with 4 to 12 base pairs. At least one example has been examined from each of the three known families of DNA helix: A, B, and Z. Each family has its own intrinsic restrictions on chain folding and structure. The observed solvent positions in these crystal structures have confirmed earlier fiber and solution measurements, and have led to proposals explaining the transitions from B to A and from B to Z helices. Prospects are improving for an understanding of the mode of bending of DNA in chromatin, and the way in which specific DNA sequences are recognized by drug molecules and repressor proteins.