DNA polymerase alpha activity was determined following serum stimulation of early and late passages of human diploid fibroblast-like (HDFL) cultures derived from apparently normal donors (two strains) and from a patient with Werner's syndrome (one strain). Induction of this enzyme was observed in both low passage, actively proliferating cultures and in postmitotic "senescent" cultures from all three strains. The maximal polymerase activity of early and late passage cells of each strain were nearly identical when normalized to the number of cells present. However, the activity of the enzyme was observed to be significantly lower in late passage cultures when normalized to total protein content apparently because of enlargement of the senescent cells. The behavior of Werner derived cells was similar to that of the normal cells. The induction of DNA polymerase alpha in senescent cultures indicates that they retain the capacity to carry out some complex metabolic responses to mitogen stimulation. In addition, these results suggest the possibility that dilution of DNA polymerase alpha and/or other DNA replication factors may play a role in the onset or maintenance of the postmitotic state in the enlarged senescent HDFL cells.