The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae catalytic DNA polymerase I 180-kDa subunit and the tightly associated 86-kDa polypeptide have been purified using immunoaffinity chromatography, permitting further characterization of the DNA polymerase activity of the DNA primase-DNA polymerase protein complex. The subunits were purified to apparent homogeneity from separate overproducing yeast strains using monoclonal antibodies specifically recognizing each subunit. When the individual subunits were recombined in vitro a p86p180 physical complex formed spontaneously, as judged by immunoprecipitation of 180-kDa polypeptide and DNA polymerase activity with the anti-86-kDa monoclonal antibody. The 86-kDa subunit stabilized the DNA polymerase activity of the 180-kDa catalytic subunit at 30 degrees C, the physiological temperature. The apparent DNA polymerase processivity of 50-60 nucleotides on poly(dA).oligo(dT)12 or poly(dT).oligo(A)8-12 template-primer was not affected by the presence of the 86-kDa subunit but was reduced by increased Mg2+ concentration. The Km of the catalytic 180-kDa subunit for dATP or DNA primer terminus was unaffected by the presence of the 86-kDa subunit. The isolated 180-kDa polypeptide was sufficient to catalyze all the DNA synthesis that had been observed previously in the DNA primase-DNA polymerase protein complex. The 180-kDa subunit possessed a 3'----5'-exonuclease activity that catalyzed degradation of polynucleotides, but degradation of oligonucleotide substrates of chain lengths up to 50 was not detected. This exonuclease activity was unaffected by the presence of the 86-kDa subunit. Despite the striking physical similarity of the DNA primase-DNA polymerase protein complex in all eukaryotes examined, the data presented here indicate differences in the enzymatic properties detected in preparations of the DNA polymerase subunits isolated from S. cerevisiae as compared with the properties of preparations from Drosophila cells. In particular, the 3'----5'-exonuclease activity associated with the yeast catalytic DNA polymerase subunit was not masked by the 86-kDa subunit.