Treatment with native DNA polymerase I of Escherichia coli with the acylating agent N-carboxymethylisatoic acid anhydride (NCMIA) results under specific conditions in a rapid loss of polymerase activity, an increase in 5' leads to 3'-exonuclease activity and in unchanged 3' leads to 5'-exonuclease activity. When a nucleoside triphosphate and Mg2+ was present the polymerase activity was completely protected against the effect of NCMIA. Treatment with higher concentration of the acylating agent under these conditions led to a loss of 3' leads to 5'-exonuclease activity without any appreciable loss of polymerase activity. Treatment with NCMIA of the two catalytically active fragments of the enzyme led to very similar results. In this case both the polymerase activity and the 3' leads to 5'-exonuclease activity deteriorated more rapidly on treatment with the acylating reagent. The increase in 5' leads to 3'-exonuclease activity as a result of modification of the native enzyme appeared to be due to a change in the optimum conditions with regard to concentration of the assay buffer used. These changes are very similar to those seen when the polymerase is cleaved by limited proteolysis. From the results obtained it is concluded that NCMIA reacts primarily with a site at or near the triphosphate-Mg2+ complex binding site, leading to an almost complete loss of polymerase activity. The acylating reagent reacts also with another group on the native enzyme resulting in a modification of the 5' leads to 3'-exonuclease activity, and at high concentrations with a group leading to a slow loss of 3' leads to 5'-exonuclease activity.