The strong mutator mutation dnaE173 which causes an amino-acid substitution in the alpha subunit of DNA polymerase III is unique in its ability to induce sequence-substitution mutations. We showed previously that multiple biochemical properties of DNA polymerase III holoenzyme of Escherichia coli are simultaneously affected by the dnaE173 mutation. These effects include a severely reduced proofreading capacity, an increased resistance to replication-pausing on the template DNA, a capability to readily promote strand-displacement DNA synthesis, a reduced rate of DNA chain elongation, and an ability to catalyze highly processive DNA synthesis in the absence of the beta-clamp subunit. Here we show that, in contrast to distributive DNA synthesis exhibited by wild-type alpha subunit, the dnaE173 mutant form of alpha subunit catalyzes highly processive DNA chain elongation without the aid of the beta-clamp. More surprisingly, the dnaE173 alpha subunit appeared to form a stable complex with primer/template DNA, while no such affinity was detected with wild-type alpha subunit. We consider that the highly increased affinity of alpha subunit for primer/template DNA is the basis for the pleiotropic effects of the dnaE173 mutation on DNA polymerase III, and provides a clue to the molecular mechanisms underlying sequence substitution mutagenesis.