Nucleolytic activities of novel mononuclear Cu(II), homo- and heterodinuclear Cu(II)-Ni(II) complexes with two diester-type ligands were investigated on pCYTEXP by neutral agarose gel electrophoresis. The analyses of the cleavage products obtained electrophoretically indicate that the examined complexes induce very similar conformational changes on supercoiled DNA by converting supercoiled form to nicked form. At concentrations greater than 100 muM, the complexes possessed effective nucleolytic activities for 10 min of incubation time. However, their nucleolytic activities did not increase significantly with longer periods of incubation. The pH-nucleolytic activity profiles of the complexes differed significantly. Metal complex induced DNA cleavage was also tested for inhibition by various radical scavengers. It could be proposed from the data that diffusible intermediate oxidants are not involved in these reactions or they are not necessary for DNA cleavage since none of antioxidants inhibited DNA cleaving activities of the complexes.