Poly(ADP-ribose) synthetase has been purified 2,000-fold to apparent homogeneity from human placenta. The purification procedure involves affinity chromatography with 3-aminobenzamide as the ligand. The purified enzyme absolutely requires DNA for the catalytic activity and catalyzes poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation of the synthetase itself (automodification) and histone H1. Mg2+ enhances both the automodification and poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation of histone H1. The enzyme is a monomeric protein with a pI of 10.0 and an apparent molecular weight of 116,000. The sedimentation coefficient and Strokes radius are 4.6 S and 5.9 nm, respectively. The frictional ratio is 1.82. Amino acid analysis and limited proteolysis with papain and alpha-chymotrypsin indicate that the human placental enzyme is very similar to the enzyme from calf thymus, although some differences are noted. Mouse antibody raised against the placental enzyme completely inhibits the activity of enzymes from human placenta and HeLa cells and cross-reacts with the enzymes from calf thymus and mouse testis. Immunoperoxidase staining with this antibody demonstrates the intranuclear localization of the enzyme in human leukemia cells. All these results indicate that molecular properties as well as antigenic determinants of poly(ADP-ribose) synthetase are highly conserved in various animal cells.