The fidelity of DNA synthesis catalyzed by the 180-kDa catalytic subunit (p180) of DNA polymerase alpha from Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been determined. Despite the presence of a 3'----5' exonuclease activity (Brooke et al., 1991, J. Biol. Chem., 266, 3005-3015), its accuracy is similar to several exonuclease-deficient DNA polymerases and much lower than other DNA polymerases that have associated exonucleolytic proofreading activity. Average error rates are 1/9900 and 1/12,000, respectively, for single base-substitution and minus-one nucleotide frameshift errors; the polymerase generates deletions as well. Similar error rates are observed with reactions containing the 180-kDa subunit plus an 86-kDa subunit (p86), or with these two polypeptides plus two additional subunits (p58 and p49) comprising the DNA primase activity required for DNA replication. Finally, addition of yeast replication factor-A (RF-A), a protein preparation that stimulates DNA synthesis and has single-stranded DNA-binding activity, yields a polymerization reaction with 7 polypeptides required for replication, yet fidelity remains low relative to error rates for semiconservative replication. The data suggest that neither exonucleolytic proofreading activity, the beta subunit, the DNA primase subunits nor RF-A contributes substantially to base substitution or frameshift error discrimination by the DNA polymerase alpha catalytic subunit.