During lagging strand DNA replication, the Okazaki fragment maturation machinery is required to degrade the initiator RNA with high speed and efficiency, and to generate with great accuracy a proper DNA nick for closure by DNA ligase. Several operational parameters are important in generating and maintaining a ligatable nick. These are the strand opening capacity of the lagging strand DNA polymerase delta (Pol delta ), and its ability to limit strand opening to that of a few nucleotides. In the presence of the flap endonuclease FEN1, Pol delta rapidly hands off the strand-opened product for cutting by FEN1, while in its absence, the ability of DNA polymerase delta to switch to its 3'-->5'-exonuclease domain in order to degrade back to the nick position is important in maintaining a ligatable nick. This regulatory system has a built-in redundancy so that dysfunction of one of these activities can be tolerated in the cell. However, further dysfunction leads to uncontrolled strand displacement synthesis with deleterious consequences, as is revealed by genetic studies of exonuclease-defective mutants of S. cerevisiae Pol delta. These same parameters are also important for other DNA metabolic processes, such as base excision repair, that depend on Pol delta for synthesis.