Key studies defining the DNA alkylation properties and selectivity of a new class of exceptionally potent, naturally occurring antitumor antibiotics including CC-1065, duocarmycin A, and duocarmycin SA are reviewed. Recent studies conducted with synthetic agents containing deep-seated structural changes and the unnatural enantiomers of the natural products and related analogs have defined the structural basis for the sequence-selective alkylation of duplex DNA and fundamental relationships between chemical structure, functional reactivity, and biological properties. The agents undergo a reversible, stereoelectronically controlled adenine-N3 addition to the least substituted carbon of the activated cyclopropane within selected AT-rich sites. The preferential AT-rich non-covalent binding selectivity of the agents within the narrower, deeper AT-rich minor groove and the steric accessibility to the alkylation site that accompanies deep AT-rich minor groove penetration control the sequence-selective DNA alkylation reaction and stabilize the resulting adduct. For the agents that possess sufficient reactivity to alkylate DNA, a direct relationship between chemical or functional stability and biological potency has been defined.