Human placenta and calf thymus DNA-polymerase-alpha-primases were analyzed using native gradient-polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis followed by overlay assays of polymerase and primase activities. The human enzyme contained three catalytically active native forms of 330, 440 and 560 kDa and the bovine enzyme five forms of 330, 440, 500, 590 and 660 kDa. Of the various DNA polymerase forms, only the largest (560 kDa for human DNA polymerase and 590 kDa and 660 kDa for bovine DNA polymerase) contained primase activity. Titration of human DNA-polymerase-alpha-primase with DNA-polymerase-free primase caused the conversion of the 440-kDa to the 560-kDa form. The data favour the idea that primase binds to DNA polymerase alpha as an oligomer of 3 primases/polymerase core. In addition, the ability of primase to utilize oligoriboadenylates containing (prA)n or pp(prA)n was investigated. The primase elongated pp(prA)2-7 up to nanoadenylates or decaadenylates, but did not add 9 or 10 mononucleotides to a preexistent primer. In contrast to pp(prA)n less than 10, (prA)n less than 10 were rather poor primers for the primase. Both pp(prA)8,9 and (prA)n greater than 10 were elongated by primase, producing characteristic multimeric oligonucleotides. The possible connection of the structure of the DNA-polymerase-alpha-primase complex with the catalytical properties of primase is discussed.