Ectoine is a small zwitterionic osmolyte and compatible solute, which does not interfere with cell metabolism even at molar concentrations. Plasmid DNA (pUC19) was irradiated with ultraviolet radiation (UV-C at 266 nm) under quasi physiological conditions (PBS) and in pure water in the presence and absence of ectoine (THP(B)) and hydroxyectoine (THP(A)). Different types of UV induced DNA damage were analysed: DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs), abasic sites and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs). A complex interplay between these factors was observed with respect to the nature and occurrence of DNA damage with 266 nm photons. In PBS, the cosolutes showed efficient protection against base damage, whilst in pure water, a dramatic shift from SSB damage to base damage was observed when cosolutes were added. To test whether these effects are caused by ectoine binding to DNA, further experiments were conducted: small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), surface-plasmon resonance (SPR) measurements and Raman spectroscopy. The results show, for the first time, a close interaction between ectoine and DNA. This is in stark contrast to the assumption made by preferential exclusion models, which are often used to interpret the behaviour of compatible solutes within cells and with biomolecules. It is tentatively proposed that the alterations of UV damage to DNA are attributed to ectoine influence on nucleobases through the direct interaction between ectoine and DNA.