We have studied the structure of a number of three-way DNA junctions that were closely related in sequence to four-way junctions studied previously. We observe that the electrophoretic mobility of the species derived by selective shortening of one arm of a junction are very similar whichever arm is shortened, and that this remains so whether or not magnesium is present in the buffer. This suggests that the angles subtended between the arms of the three-way junctions are similar. All thymine bases located immediately at the junction are reactive to osmium tetroxide, indicating that out-of-plane attack is not prevented by helix-helix stacking, and this is also independent of the presence or absence of metal cations. The results suggest that the three-way junction cannot undergo an ion-induced conformational folding involving helical stacking, but remains fixed in a Y-shaped extended conformation. Thus the three- and four-way junctions are quite different in character in the presence of cations.