Autonomous 3'-->5'exonucleases are not bound covalently to DNA polymerases but are often involved in replicative complexes. Such exonucleases from rat liver, calf thymus and Escherichia coli (molecular masses of 28+/-2 kDa) are shown to increase more than 10-fold the accuracy of DNA polymerase beta (the most inaccurate mammalian polymerase) from rat liver in the course of reduplication of the primed DNA of bacteriophage phiX174 amber 3 in vitro. The extent of correction increases together with the rise in 3'-->5' exonuclease concentration. Extrapolation of the in vitro DNA replication fidelity to the cellular levels of rat exonuclease and beta-polymerase suggests that exonucleolytic proofreading could augment the accuracy of DNA synthesis by two orders of magnitude. These results are not explained by exonucleolytic degradation of the primers ("no synthesis-no errors"), since similar data are obtained with the use of the primers 15 or 150 nucleotides long in the course of a fidelity assay of DNA polymerases, both alpha and beta, in the presence of various concentrations of 3'-->5' exonuclease.