Nearly 50 years since its potential as a fluorescent base analogue was first recognised, 2-aminopurine (2AP) continues to be the most widely used fluorescent probe of DNA structure and the perturbation of that structure by interaction with enzymes and other molecules. In this review, we begin by considering the origin of the dramatic and intriguing difference in photophysical properties between 2AP and its structural isomer, adenine; although 2AP differs from the natural base only in the position of the exocyclic amine group, its fluorescence intensity is one thousand times greater. We then discuss the mechanism of interbase quenching of 2AP fluorescence in DNA, which is the basis of its use as a conformational probe but remains imperfectly understood. There are hundreds of examples in the literature of the use of changes in the fluorescence intensity of 2AP as the basis of assays of conformational change; however, in this review we will consider in detail only a few intensity-based studies. Our primary aim is to highlight the use of time-resolved fluorescence measurements, and the interpretation of fluorescence decay parameters, to explore the structure and dynamics of DNA. We discuss the salient features of the fluorescence decay of 2AP when incorporated in DNA and review the use of decay measurements in studying duplexes, single strands and other structures. We survey the use of 2AP as a probe of DNA-enzyme interaction and enzyme-induced distortion, focusing particularly on its use to study base flipping and the enhanced mechanistic insights that can be gained by a detailed analysis of the decay parameters, rather than merely monitoring changes in fluorescence intensity. Finally we reflect on the merits and shortcomings of 2AP and the prospects for its wider adoption as a fluorescence-decay-based probe.