Pyrans are co-polymers of divinyl ether and maleic anhydride. Four pyrans of various molecular weights more potently inhibited terminal deoxyribonucleotidyltransferase (EC 22.214.171.124) from a human cell line of acute lymphoblastic leukemia origin (Molt-4) than they did DNA polymerases alpha, beta and gamma from these cells and DNA polymerase from simian sarcoma virus. For example, the concentrations of one pyran required for 50% inhibition of terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase, DNA polymerases alpha, beta and gamma and viral DNA polymerase were 0.9, 110, 125, 35 and 47 microgram/ml respectively. Quantitatively similar results were obtained with the other pyrans. Inhibition of these enzymes by pyran was dependent on the concentrations of both the bivalent cation and template/primer or initiator in assay mixtures, but not on the concentrations of the substrate (deoxyribonucleoside 5'-triphosphate), enzyme, or bovine serum albumin. These results suggested that pyran inhibited these enzymes by complexing bivalent cations, which caused a decreased affinity of template/primer or initiator for each enzyme and a decrease in enzyme activity.