The genomes of eukaryotic cells predict the existence of multiple DNA polymerases, which are proposed to serve specialized roles in DNA replication and repair. We report here the isolation of the full-length human DNA POLQ gene, and an initial characterization of its gene product, DNA polymerase theta. POLQ is of particular interest as it is orthologous to Drosophila Mus308, a gene implicated in cellular resistance to interstrand DNA cross-linking agents. The POLQ cDNA encodes a polypeptide of 2592 amino acids with an ATPase-helicase domain in the N-terminal part of the protein, a central spacer domain, and a DNA polymerase domain in the C-terminal portion. This arrangement is conserved with Mus308. Expression of an mRNA of approximately 8.5 kb was detected in human cell lines. In a survey of human and mouse tissues, expression was highest in testis. Immunoblotting with POLQ antibodies detected a protein of >250 kDa in extracts from HeLa cells. Prominent fragments of approximately 100 kDa suggest that POLQ is readily proteolyzed. Full-length human POLQ was expressed from a baculovirus system. Purified POLQ showed DNA polymerase activity on nicked double-stranded DNA and on a singly primed DNA template. The enzyme activity was resistant to aphidicolin, consistent with its membership of the A family of DNA polymerases, and inhibited by dideoxynucleotides. POLQ further exhibited a single-stranded DNA-dependent ATPase activity.