We have studied a series of three-way DNA junctions containing unpaired bases on one strand at the branch-point of the junctions. The global conformation of the arms of the junctions has been analysed by means of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, as a function of conditions. We find that in the absence of added metal ions, all the results for all the junctions can be accounted for by extended structures, with the largest angle being that between the arms defined by the strand containing the extra bases. Upon addition of magnesium (II) or hexamine cobalt (III) ions, the electrophoretic patterns change markedly, indicative of ion-dependent folding transitions for some of the junctions. For the junction lacking the unpaired bases, the three inter-arm angles appear to be quite similar, suggesting an extended structure. However, the addition of unpaired bases permits the three-way junction to adopt a significantly different structure, in which one angle becomes smaller than the other two. These species also exhibit marked protection against osmium addition to thymine bases at the point of strand exchange. These results are consistent with a model in which two of the helical arms undergo coaxial stacking in the presence of magnesium ions, with the third arm defining an angle that depends upon the number of unpaired bases.