Almost all DNA and RNA metabolizing enzymes can be assayed rapidly and very sensitively by exploiting the enhanced fluorescence of ethidium intercalated into duplex DNA or RNA. Denatured DNA and natural RNAs contain duplex regions due to intramolecular hydrogen-bonding and can also be sensitively measured. Where the product is truly single-stranded (e.g. dTn) it can be assayed by adding the appropriate complementary strand (e.g. dAn or rAn). Some of the assays described provide information not readily obtained by other assay procedures. Among the enzymes readily assayed are DNA and RNA polymerases, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferases, nucleases of all varieties (e.g. single-strand specific, endonucleases including for example AP endonucleases, exonucleases, RNase H, etc.), ligases, topoisomerases including gyrases, and indirectly enzymes such as proteases and superoxide dismutase. DNA binding proteins such as histones and helix destablizing proteins can also be quantitatively assayed.