Although DNA has not been found responsible for biological catalysis, many artificial DNA enzymes have been created by "in vitro selection." Here we describe a new selection approach to assess the influence of four common divalent metal ions (Ca(2+), Cu(2+), Mg(2+), and Mn(2+)) on sequence diversity, metal specificity, and catalytic proficiency of self-phosphorylating deoxyribozymes. Numerous autocatalytic DNA sequences were isolated, a majority of which were selected using Cu(2+) or Mn(2+) as the divalent metal cofactor. We found that Cu(2+)- and Mn(2+)-derived deoxyribozymes were strictly metal specific, while those selected by Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) were less specific. Further optimization by in vitro evolution resulted in a Mn(2+)-dependent deoxyribozyme with a k(cat) of 2.8 min(-1). Our findings suggest that DNA has sufficient structural diversity to facilitate efficient catalysis using a broad scope of metal cofactor utilizing mechanisms.