In the bacteriophage T4 DNA replication system, T4 gene 59 protein binds preferentially to fork DNA and accelerates the loading of the T4 41 helicase. 59 protein also binds the T4 32 single-stranded DNA-binding protein that coats the lagging strand template. Here we explore the function of the strong affinity between the 32 and 59 proteins at the replication fork. We show that, in contrast to the 59 helicase loader, 32 protein does not bind forked DNA more tightly than linear DNA. 32 protein displays a strong binding polarity on fork DNA, binding with much higher affinity to the 5' single-stranded lagging strand template arm of a model fork, than to the 3' single-stranded leading strand arm. 59 protein promotes the binding of 32 protein on forks too short for cooperative binding by 32 protein. We show that 32 protein is required for helicase-dependent leading strand DNA synthesis when the helicase is loaded by 59 protein. However, 32 protein is not required for leading strand synthesis when helicase is loaded, less efficiently, without 59 protein. Leading strand synthesis by wild type T4 polymerase is strongly inhibited when 59 protein is present without 32 protein. Because 59 protein can load the helicase on forks without 32 protein, our results are best explained by a model in which 59 helicase loader at the fork prevents the coupling of the leading strand polymerase and the helicase, unless the position of 59 protein is shifted by its association with 32 protein.