The nick-translation reaction of E. coli DNA polymerase I (Pol I) was used as a model system to demonstrate the ability of macromolecular crowding to alter the response of an enzyme to a number of basic parameters, such as pH, temperature or inhibitors. In the presence of high concentrations of non-specific polymers, nick translation occurred under a variety of otherwise strongly inhibitory conditions. The conditions tested included a range of pH values or temperatures or inhibitory concentrations of urea, formamide or ethidium bromide. These crowding effects are accentuated at higher ionic strengths, suggesting their origin in increased binding between the polymerase and its DNA template-primer under crowded conditions. Kinetic measurements were consistent with such a mechanism.