The complete amino acid (aa) alignment of the N-terminal domain of 33 DNA-dependent DNA polymerases encompassing the putative segments Exo I, Exo II and Exo III, proposed by Bernad et al. [Cell 59 (1989) 219-228] to form a conserved 3'-5' exonuclease active site in prokaryotic and eukaryotic DNA polymerases, allowed us to identify and/or correct some of the most conserved segments (Exo I, II and III) in certain DNA polymerases. In particular, the aa region of T4 DNA polymerase and other eukaryotic (viral and cellular) DNA polymerases previously proposed as Exo I segment 1, did not align with the Exo I segment of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I (PolI)-like and protein-primed DNA polymerases; instead, a new conserved region of aa similarity was identified in T4 DNA polymerase and eukaryotic (viral and cellular) DNA polymerases as their corresponding Exo I segment. Therefore, according to our alignment, the recently reported T4 DNA polymerase site-directed mutants, D189A and E191A [Reha-Krantz et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88 (1991) 2417-2421], do not correspond to what we now consider the critical Exo I motif of PolI. As discussed in this communication, the functional importance of conserved segments Exo I, Exo II and Exo III is supported by site-directed mutagenesis in PolI, and in phi 29, T7 and delta(Sc) DNA polymerases. Furthermore, genetically selected T4 DNA polymerase mutator mutants form two main clusters, centered in the conserved segment Exo III and in the newly identified Exo I segment.