The sensitivity to psoralen plus near-ultraviolet radiation (PUVA) was compared in a pair of E. coli strains differing at the acrA locus. Survival was determined for both bacteria and phage λ. AcrA mutant cells were 40 times more sensitive than wild type to the lethal effect of PUVA. Free λ phage exposed to PUVA survived as well when plated on acrA mutants as on wild type. In contrast, prophage λ C1857 ind carried in lysogenic acrA strains was hypersensitive to PUVA. The enhanced sensitivity of bacterial and λ DNA, when inside acrA cells, was paralleled by an increased photobinding of radiolabelled psoralens in the mutant. Binding was increased specifically to DNA rather than to nucleic acids in general. The difference in psoralen-binding ability determined by the acrA gene persisted after permeabilizing treatment of the cells. The results suggest that the acrA mutation causes an alteration specifically in the environment of the cellular DNA so as to allow increased intercalation and photobinding of psoralens.