Novel blue light-excited fluorescent dyes for nucleic acids (YOYO-1, YO-PRO-1, and PicoGreen) were tested on cultures of Escherichia coli and of a variety of marine prokaryotes. Results of flow cytometric DNA analyses were compared with those obtained with the UV-excited dyes bis-benzimide Hoechst 33342 or 4', 6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). YOYO-1, YO-PRO-1, and PicoGreen can be used only on aldehyde-fixed cells and need to be supplemented with cofactors such as potassium, citrate, or EDTA. They are highly sensitive to ionic strength. Consequently, seawater culture samples cannot be stained directly with these dyes and require at least a 10-fold dilution with distilled water to obtain reliable fluorescence signals. After treatment with RNase, coefficients of variation for the G1 peak of the DNA distributions of the different strains tested with YOYO-1 or PicoGreen indicated in general an improvement over Hoechst 33342 staining. These novel dyes can be used to enumerate prokaryotic cells by flow cytometry, as demonstrated with E. coli. However, their sensitivity to ionic strength makes them unsuitable for cell cycle analysis in natural samples.