A computer model of the complex between G2'p5'G and barnase, the recombinant ribonuclease of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, was constructed, based on the known structure of the complex RNAase T1.G2'p5'G. This model suggests that the conserved residue Glu-60 plays an important role in the specificity of barnase for guanosine. A barnase mutant was therefore made in which Glu-60 was replaced by Gin. This mutation increases the K-m for the dinucleotides GpC and GpA, by a factor of 10, but does not change the k(cat). For ApA, the k(cat)/K-m decreases by a similar factor, but the individual parameters could not be determined. The mutation, however, has no influence on the k(cat) and the K-m of barnase action towards RNA and poly(A). This demonstrates that the interactions between the substrate and the residue at position 60 must be different in the case of ApA and poly(A). For RNA, this conclusion is also likely, but not absolutely certain, because barnase/RNA might be a Briggs-Haldane type enzyme/substrate pair. Therefore, if the effect of the mutation were limited to an increase of the dissociation rate constant of the substrate (k(-1)), this would not be evident in K-m or k(cat)/K-m. In view of the clear cut situation with poly(A), the pH profile for and the effect of salt concentration on the kinetic parameters of the mutant barnase were studied for this substrate. The influence of salt on the K-m can be interpreted via the linked function concept and shows a cooperative dissociation of 7-10 counterions upon poly(A) binding. The binding of the substrate is strongly reduced at high pH, and the pK(a) involved decreases strongly at high salt concentrations. Poly(A) and RNA show a: pH dependency of their absorbance spectrum, indicating a pH-dependent change of base stacking, which may influence the catalytic parameters.