The combined action of DNA polymerase alpha and DNA polymerase beta leads to the synthesis of full-length linear DNA strands with phi X174 DNA templates containing an RNA primer. The reaction can be carried out in two stages. In the first stage, DNA polymerase alpha catalyzes the synthesis of a chain that averaged 230 deoxynucleotides long and was covalently linked to the RNA primer. In the second stage, DNA polymerase beta elongates the DNA strand covalently attached to the RNA primer to full length. With DNA primers, DNA polymerase alpha catalyzes only limited deoxynucleotide addition whereas DNA polymerase beta alone elongates DNA primed templates to full length. DNA polymerase beta can also stimulate the synthesis of adenovirus DNA in vitro in the presence of a cytosol extract from adenovirus-infected cells. In all of these systems, dNMP incorporation catalyzed by DNA polymerase beta was sensitive to N-ethylmaleimide; however, this polymerase activity was resistant to N-ethylmaleimide with poly(rA) x (dT) as the primer template.