Pol III, a subassembly of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase III holoenzyme lacking only the auxiliary beta subunit, was purified to homogeneity by an improved procedure. This assembly consists of nine different polypeptides, likely in a 1:1 stoichiometry: a catalytic core (pol III) of alpha (132 kDa), epsilon (27 kDa), and theta (10 kDa), and six auxiliary subunits: tau (71 kDa), gamma (52 kDa), delta (35 kDa), delta' (33 kDa), chi (15 kDa), and psi (12 kDa). The assembly behaves on gel filtration as a particle of about 800 kDa, indicating a content of two each of the subunits. A new procedure for purifying the core yielded a novel dimeric form which may provide the foundation for the dimeric nature of the more complex pol III and holoenzyme forms. Pol III readily dissociates into several subassemblies including pol III', likely a dimeric core with two tau subunits. The holoenzyme, purified by a similar procedure with ATP and Mg2+ present throughout, retained the beta subunit (37 kDa) as well as all the subunits present in pol III; the mass of the holoenzyme was estimated to be 900 kDa. The isolated initiation complex of holoenzyme with a primed template DNA and the elongation complex (formed in the presence of three deoxynucleoside triphosphates) had the same composition and stoichiometry as observed for pol III with two beta dimers in addition. An initiation complex assembled from a mixture of monomeric pol III core, gamma 2 delta delta' chi psi complex (gamma complex), beta, and tau retained the core, one beta dimer, and two tau subunits but was deficient in the gamma complex. When tau was omitted from the assembly mixture, the initiation complex contained one or two gamma complexes instead of the tau subunit. Based on these data, pol III holoenzyme is judged to be an asymmetric dimeric particle with twin pol III core active sites and two different sets of auxiliary units designed to achieve essentially concurrent replication of both leading and lagging strand templates.