Polyamide dimers containing three types of aromatic rings-pyrrole, imidazole, and hydroxypyrrole-afford a small-molecule recognition code that discriminates among all four Watson-Crick base pairs in the minor groove. The crystal structure of a specific polyamide dimer-DNA complex establishes the structural basis for distinguishing T[middle dot]A from A[middle dot]T base pairs. Specificity for the T[middle dot]A base pair is achieved by means of distinct hydrogen bonds between pairs of substituted pyrroles on the ligand and the O2 of thymine and N3 of adenine. In addition, shape-selective recognition of an asymmetric cleft between the thymine-O2 and the adenine-C2 was observed. Although hitherto similarities among the base pairs in the minor groove have been emphasized, the structure illustrates differences that allow specific minor groove recognition.