Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) DNA polymerases were highly purified from infected HeLa BU cells by DEAE cellulose, phosphocellulose and DNA cellulose column chromatography. DNA exonuclease activity but not endonuclease activity was found associated with both types of DNA polymerase. Both DNA polymerase activities could be activated by salt in a similar fashion with the optimal activity in the range of ionic strength between 0.22 and 0.29 alpha. At an ionic strength of 0.14, spermidine and putrescine in the concentration range (0--5 mM) studied could mimic the action of KCI in stimulating DNA polymerase activity. Spermine, in the same concentration range, had a biphasic effect. At an ionic strength of 0.29 all three polyamines were inhibitory. HSV-1 and HSV-2 DNA polymerase are similar in their column chromatographic behavior, sedimentation rate in sucrose gradient centrifugation, and activation energy, but they differ in their heat stability at 45 degrees C with the HSV-2 enzyme more stable than the HSV-1 enzyme. Kinetic behavior of both enzymes is similar, with Km values for deoxyribonucleoside triphosphates in the range of 5 . 10(-7) to 1.8 . 10(-8) M. IdUTP and dUTP served as apparent competitive inhibitors with respect to dTTP, and AraATP acted as an apparent competitive inhibitor with respect to dATP. AraATP could not replace dATP in the DNA polymerization reaction; in contrast, IdUTP could replace TTP. Phosphonoformic acid behaved as an uncompetitive inhibitor with respect to DNA. The ID(50) value estimated was foind to be dependent on the purity of the DNA polymerase used and the ionic strength of the assay condition. Each DNA-polymerase associated DNA exonuclease had the same stability at 45 degrees C as its DNA polymerase. The associated DNAase activity was inhibited by phosphonoformic acid and high ionic strength of the assay condition.