The bacteriophage T4 gene 41 protein is a 5' to 3' DNA helicase which unwinds DNA ahead of the growing replication fork and, together with the T4 gene 61 protein, also functions as a primase to initiate DNA synthesis on the lagging strand. Proteolytic cleavage by trypsin approximately 20 amino acids from the COOH terminus of the 41 protein produces 41T, a 51,500-dalton fragment (possibly still associated with small COOH-terminal fragments) which still retains the ssDNA-stimulated GTPase (ATPase) activity, the 61 protein-stimulated DNA helicase activity, and the ability to act with 61 protein to synthesize pentaribonucleotide primers. In the absence of the T4 gene 32 ssDNA binding protein, the primase-helicase composed of the tryptic fragment (41T) and 61 proteins efficiently primes DNA synthesis on circular ssDNA templates by the T4 DNA polymerase and the three T4 polymerase accessory proteins. In contrast, the 41T protein is defective as a helicase or a primase component on 32 protein-covered DNA. Thus, unlike the intact protein, 41T does not support RNA-dependent DNA synthesis on 32 protein-covered ssDNA and does not stimulate strand displacement DNA synthesis on a nicked duplex DNA template. High concentrations of 32 protein strongly inhibit RNA primer synthesis with either 41 T or intact 41 protein. The 44/62 and 45 polymerase accessory proteins (and even the 44/62 proteins to some extent) substantially reverse the 32 protein inhibition of RNA primer synthesis with intact 41 protein but not with 41T protein. We propose that the COOH-terminal region of the 41 protein is required for its interaction with the T4 polymerase accessory proteins, permitting the synthesis and utilization of RNA primers and helicase function within the T4 replication complex. When this region is altered, as in 41T protein, the protein is unable to assemble a functional primase-helicase in the replication complex. An easy and rapid purification of T4 41 protein produced by a plasmid encoding this gene (Hinton, D. M., Silver, L. L., and Nossal, N. G. (1985) J. Biol. Chem. 260, 12851-12857) is also described.