Replication of human adenovirus type 12 DNA is blocked in abortively infected baby hamster kidney cells. The activity and accumulation of adenovirus 12 DNA polymerase is equivalent in infected hamster and human cell extracts. However, the accumulation of adenovirus type 12 DNA-binding protein is approximately 120-fold lower in extracts from infected hamster cells when compared to infected permissive human cells. This difference in accumulation is not due to replication of viral DNA during productive infection, since this difference is observed in the presence of hydroxyurea. The DNA-binding protein from infected hamster cells retains the ability to bind denatured DNA-cellulose. An adenovirus 5 early region 1 transformed hamster cell line competent to complement the adenovirus 12 DNA replication defect also stimulates accumulation of the DNA-binding protein even when the cells are treated with hydroxyurea. Thus, the reduced expression of the viral DNA-binding protein may play a role in the mechanism of abortive infection of hamster cells by adenovirus 12.