The fluorescent probeDRAQ5 which rapidly permeates cells and binds to DNA is potentially useful for functional studies of molecular dynamics and interactions in living nuclei. Within minutes after the incubation of human osteosarcoma U2OS cells with 5 μm DRAQ5, the distributions of RNA polymerase II and some of its associated regulatory proteins HEXIM and cyclin T1 in the nucleus are severely impaired, and transcription is inhibited. Furthermore, 30 min exposure to DRAQ5 induces death of U2OS cells 24 h later. Incubation with Hoechst 33342 under similar conditions does not induce these effects. These results emphasize the importance of carefully examining the functional consequences of labeling DNA with intercalating fluorescent dyes before use.