The fidelity of DNA replication is achieved in a multiplicative process encompassing nucleobase selection and insertion, removal of misinserted nucleotides by exonuclease activity, and enzyme dissociation from primer/templates that are misaligned due to mispairing. In this study, we have evaluated the effect of altering these kinetic processes on the dynamics of translesion DNA replication using the bacteriophage T4 replication apparatus as a model system. The effect of enhancing the processivity of the T4 DNA polymerase, gp43, on translesion DNA replication was evaluated using a defined in vitro assay system. While the T4 replicase (gp43 in complex with gp45) can perform efficient, processive replication using unmodified DNA, the T4 replicase cannot extend beyond an abasic site. This indicates that enhancing the processivity of gp43 does not increase unambiguously its ability to perform translesion DNA replication. Surprisingly, the replicase composed of an exonuclease-deficient mutant of gp43 was unable to extend beyond the abasic DNA lesion, thus indicating that molecular processes involved in DNA polymerization activity play the predominant role in preventing extension beyond the non-coding DNA lesion. Although neither T4 replicase complex could extend beyond the lesion, there were measurable differences in the stability of each complex at the DNA lesion. Specifically, the exonuclease-deficient replicase dissociates at a rate constant, k(off), of 1.1s(-1) while the wild-type replicase remains more stably associated at the site of DNA damage by virtue of a slower measured rate constant (k(off) 0.009s(-1)). The increased lifetime of the wild-type replicase suggests that idle turnover, the partitioning of the replicase from its polymerase to its exonuclease active site, may play an important role in maintaining fidelity. Further attempts to perturb the fidelity of the T4 replicase by substituting Mn(2+) for Mg(2+) did not significantly enhance DNA synthesis beyond the abasic DNA lesion. The results of these studies are interpreted with respect to current structural information of gp43 alone and complexed with gp45.