The novel dye SYBR Green I binds specifically to nucleic acids and can be excited by blue light (488-nm wavelength). Cell concentrations of prokaryotes measured in marine samples with this dye on a low-cost compact flow cytometer are comparable to those obtained with the UV-excited stain Hoechst 33342 (bis-benzimide) on an expensive flow cytometer with a water-cooled laser. In contrast to TOTO-1 and TO-PRO-1, SYBR Green I has the advantage of clearly discriminating both heterotrophic bacteria and autotrophic Prochlorococcus cells, even in oligotrophic waters. As with TOTO-1 and TO-PRO-1, two groups of heterotrophic bacteria (B-I and B-II-like types) can be distinguished. Moreover, the resolution of DNA distribution obtained with SYBR Green I is similar to that obtained with Hoechst 33342 and permits the analysis of the cell cycle of photosynthetic prokaryotes over the whole water column.