In this paper we report a detailed enzymatic characterization of the interaction of the polymerase accessory protein complex of the T4 DNA replication system with the various nucleic acid cofactors that activate the ATPase of the complex. We show that the ATPase activity of the T4 coded gene 44/62 protein complex is stimulated synergistically by binding of DNA and T4 gene 45 protein and that the level of ATPase activation appears to be directly correlated with the binding of nucleic acid cofactor. Binding of any partially or completely single-stranded DNA to the complete accessory protein complex increases the catalytic activity (as measured by Vmax) while decreasing the binding affinity for the ATP substrate. While single-stranded DNA is a moderately effective cofactor, we find that the optimal nucleic acid-binding site for the complex is the primer-template junction, rather than single-stranded DNA ends as previously reported in the literature. Gene 45 protein plays an essential role in directing the specificity of binding to primer-template sites, lowering the Km for primer-template sites almost 1000-fold, and increasing Vmax 100-fold, compared with the analogous values for gene 44/62 protein alone. The most effective primer-template site for binding and enzymatic activation has the physiologically relevant recessed 3'-OH configuration and an optimal size in excess of 18 base pairs of duplex DNA. We find that the chemical nature of the primer terminus (i.e. 3'-OH or 3'-H) does not affect the extent of ATPase activation and that binding of the polymerase accessory protein complex to DNA cofactors is salt concentration dependent but appreciably less so when the activating DNA is a primer-template junction. Finally, we show that the gene 32 protein (T4 coded single-stranded DNA-binding protein) can compete with the polymerase accessory protein complex for single-stranded DNA but not for the primer-template junction activation sites. The implications of these results for the structure and function of the polymerase accessory protein complex within the T4 DNA replication system are discussed.