A high-resolution crystal structure is reported for d(TpA)*, the intramolecular thymine–adenine photoadduct that is produced by direct ultraviolet excitation of the dinucleoside monophosphate d(TpA). It confirms the presence of a central 1,3-diazacyclooctatriene ring linking the remnants of the T and A bases, as previously deduced from heteronuclear NMR measurements by Zhao et al. (The structure of d(TpA)*, the major photoproduct of thymidylyl-(3′-5′)-deoxyadenosine. Nucleic Acids Res., 1996, 24, 1554–1560). Within the crystal, the d(TpA)* molecules exist as zwitterions with a protonated amidine fragment of the eight-membered ring neutralizing the charge of the internucleotide phosphate monoanion. The absolute configuration at the original thymine C5 and C6 atoms is determined as 5S,6R. This is consistent with d(TpA)* arising by valence isomerization of a precursor cyclobutane photoproduct with cis–syn stereochemistry that is generated by [2 + 2] photoaddition of the thymine 5,6-double bond across the C6 and C5 positions of adenine. This mode of photoaddition should be favoured by the stacked conformation of adjacent T and A bases in B-form DNA. It is probable that the primary photoreaction is mechanistically analogous to pyrimidine dimerization despite having a much lower quantum yield.