The effects of pH on the torsional flexibility of DNA bound to nucleosome core particles were investigated by using time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy decays of intercalated ethidium. The decays were collected by using time-resolved single-photon counting and were fit to a model developed by J. M. Schurr [(1984) Chem. Phys. 84, 71-96] with a nonlinear least-squares-fitting algorithm developed for this purpose. As the torsional flexibility of DNA is affected by the presence of an intercalating dye, the decays were studied at different ethidium bromide to core particle binding ratios. Because we see large increases in DNA flexibility and in the rotational diffusion coefficient at binding ratios of 0.6 ethidium/core particle and above, we conclude that, under these conditions, the DNA begins to detach from the protein. At lower binding ratios, we observe only small changes in the anisotropy decay. The torsional parameters obtained are a function of N, the number of base pairs of DNA between points of attachment to the histone core. Only if N is greater than 30 base pairs is the torsional rigidity of DNA on a nucleosome core particle higher than that for DNA free in solution. Also, for reasonable values of N (less than 30), the friction felt by the DNA on a core particle is much higher than that felt by free DNA. This indicates that the region of the DNA to which the ethidium binds is highly constrained in its motions. pH changes nearly neutrality at moderate ionic strengths (100 mM) have a substantial effect on the fluorescence anisotropy decays, particularly at early times. These analyses indicated that the observed change on increasing pH can be attributed either to a loosening of the contacts between the DNA and the histone core (increasing N) or to a substantial relaxing of the torsional rigidity of the DNA.