Redox active mononuclear and binuclear copper(II) complexes have been prepared and structurally characterized. The complexes have planar N-donor heterocyclic bases like 1,10-phenanthroline (phen), dipyridoquinoxaline (dpq) and dipyridophenazine (dppz) ligands that are suitable for intercalation to B-DNA. Complexes studied for nuclease activity have the formulations [Cu(dpq)2(H2O)] (ClO4)2.H2O (1), [CuL(H2O)2(μ-ox)](ClO4)2 (L = bpy,2; phen,3; dpq,4; and dppz,5) and [Cu(L)(salgly)] (L = bpy,6; phen,7; dpq,8; and dppz,9), where salgly is a tridentate Schiff base obtained from the condensation of glycine and salicylaldehyde. The dpq complexes are efficient DNA binding and cleavage active species. The dppz complexes show good binding ability but poor nuclease activity. The cleavage activity of thebis-dpq complex is significantly higher than thebis-phen complex of copper(II). The nuclease activity is found to be dependent on the intercalating nature of the complex and on the redox potential of the copper(II)/copper(I) couple. The ancillary ligand plays a significant role in binding and cleavage activity.