A triple helix is formed upon binding of an oligodeoxynucleotide to the major groove of duplex DNA. A benzo[e]pyridoindole derivative (BePI) strongly stabilized this structure and showed preferential binding to a triplex rather than to a duplex. Energy transfer experiments suggest that BePI intercalates within the triple helix. Sequence-specific inhibition of transcription initiation of a specific gene by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase by a triplexforming oligodeoxynucleotide is strongly enhanced when the triplex is stabilized by BePI. Upon irradiation with ultraviolet light, BePI induces covalent modifications of the target within the triple helix structure.