DNA polymerase III holoenzyme (holoenzyme) processively and rapidly replicates a primed single-stranded DNA circle to produce a duplex with an interruption in the synthetic strand. The precise nature of this discontinuity in the replicative form (RF II) and the influence of the 5' termini of the DNA and RNA primers were analyzed in this study. Virtually all (90%) of the RF II products primed by DNA were nicked structures sealable by Escherichia coli DNA ligase; in 10% of the products, replication proceeded one nucleotide beyond the 5' DNA terminus displacing (but not removing) the 5' terminal nucleotide. With RNA primers, replication generally went beyond the available single-stranded template. The 5' RNA terminus was displaced by 1-5 nucleotides in 85% of the products; a minority of products was nicked (9%) or had short gaps (6%). Termination of synthesis on a linear DNA template was usually (85%) one base shy of completion. Thus, replication by holoenzyme utilizes all, or nearly all, of the available template and shows no significant 5'----3' exonuclease action as observed in primer removal by the "nick-translation" activity of DNA polymerase I.