Little is known about the functions of DNA polymerase lambda (Pol lambda) recently identified in mammals. From the genomic sequence information of rice and Arabidopsis, we found that Pol lambda may be the only member of the X-family in higher plants. We have succeeded in isolating the cDNA and recombinant protein of Pol lambda in a higher plant, rice (Oryza sativa L. cv. Nipponbare) (OsPol lambda). OsPol lambda had activities of DNA polymerase, terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase and deoxyribose phosphate lyase, a marker enzyme for base excision repair. It also interacted with rice proliferating cell nuclear antigen (OsPCNA) in a pull-down assay. OsPCNA increased the processivity of OsPol lambda. Northern blot analysis showed that the level of OsPol lambda expression correlated with cell proliferation in meristematic and meiotic tissues, and was induced by DNA-damaging treatments. These properties suggest that plant Pol lambda is a DNA repair enzyme which functions in plant meristematic and meiotic tissues, and that it can substitute for Pol beta and terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase.