DNA polymerase zeta (Pol zeta) and Rev1p carry out translesion replication in budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and are jointly responsible for almost all base pair substitution and frameshift mutations induced by DNA damage in this organism. In addition, Pol zeta is responsible for the majority of spontaneous mutations in yeast and has been proposed as the enzyme responsible for somatic hypermutability. Pol zeta, a non-processive enzyme that lacks a 3' to 5' exonuclease proofreading activity, is composed of Rev3p, the catalytic subunit, and a second subunit encoded by REV7. In keeping with its role, extension by Pol zeta is relatively tolerant of abnormal DNA structure at the primer terminus and is much more capable of extension from terminal mismatches than yeast DNA polymerase alpha (Pol alpha). Rev1p is a bifunctional enzyme that possesses a deoxycytidyl transferase activity that incorporates deoxycytidyl opposite abasic sites in the template and a second, at present poorly defined, activity that is required for the bypass of a variety of lesions as well as abasic sites. Human homologues of the yeast REV1 and REV3 have been identified and, based on the phenotype of cells producing antisense RNA to one or other of these genes, their products appear also to be employed in translation replication and spontaneous mutagenesis. We suggest that Pol zeta is best regarded as a replication enzyme, albeit one that is used only intermittently, that promotes extension at forks the progress of which is blocked for any reason, whether the presence of an unedited terminal mismatch or unrepaired DNA lesion.