Porcine circovirus is the only mammalian DNA virus so far known to contain a single-stranded circular genome (Tischer et al. (1982) Nature 295, 64-66). Replication of its small viral DNA (1.76 kb) appears to be dependent on cellular enzymes expressed during S-phase of the cell cycle (Tischer et al. (1987) Arch. Virol. 96, 39-57). In this paper we have exploited the porcine circovirus genome to probe for in vitro initiation and elongation of DNA replication by different preparations of calf thymus DNA polymerase alpha and delta as well as by a partially purified preparation from pig thymus. The results indicated that three different purification fractions of calf thymus DNA polymerase alpha and one from pig thymus initiate DNA synthesis at several sites on the porcine circovirus DNA. It appears that the sites at which DNA primase synthesizes primers are not entirely random. Subsequent DNA elongation by a highly purified DNA polymerase alpha holoenzyme which had been isolated by the criterion of replicating single-stranded M13 DNA (Ottiger et al. (1987) Nucleic Acids Res. 15, 4789-4807) is very efficient. Complete conversion to the double-stranded form is obtained in less than 1 min. When the DNA synthesis by DNA polymerase alpha is blocked with the DNA polymerase alpha specific monoclonal antibody SJK 132-20 after initiation by DNA primase, DNA polymerase delta can efficiently replicate from the primers. This in vitro DNA replication system may be used in analogy to the bacteriophage systems in E. coli to study initiation and elongation of DNA replication.