OSI-7836 (4'-thio-araC, T-araC) is a nucleoside analogue that shows efficacy against solid tumor xenograft models. We examined how the triphosphates of OSI-7836 (T-araCTP), cytarabine (araCTP), and gemcitabine (dFdCTP) affected the initiation of new DNA strands by the pol alpha primase complex. Whereas dFdCTP very weakly inhibited primase, both T-araCTP and araCTP potently inhibited this enzyme. Primase polymerized T-araCTP and araCTP more readily than its natural substrate, CTP, and incorporation resulted in strong chain termination. dFdCTP, araCTP, and T-araCTP inhibited pol alpha competitively with respect to dCTP. When exogenously added primentemplates were used, pol alpha incorporated all three analogues into DNA, and incorporation caused either weak chain termination (dFdCTP), strong termination (araCTP), or extremely strong termination (T-araC). Furthermore, pol alpha polymerized T-araCTP only nine-fold less well than dCTP, whereas it polymerized araCTP and dFdCTP 24- and 83-fold less well, respectively. The presence of these three analogues in the template strand resulted in significant pausing by pol alpha, although the site and severity of pausing varied between the analogues. During the elongation of primase-synthesized primers, a reaction that is thought to mimic the normal sequence of events during the initiation of new DNA strands, pol alpha polymerized all three compounds. However, incorporation of araCTP and dFdCTP resulted in minimal chain termination, while incorporation of T-araCTP still caused extremely strong termination. The implications of these results with respect to how these compounds affect cells are discussed.