Nuclei isolated from herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2-infected KB cells were examined for their capacity to serve as an in situ source of herpes DNA polymerase. In contrast to purified enzymes with added template, approx. 80% of the DNA synthesized in isolated nuclei was viral. The average size of DNA fragments labeled in vitro was 3.2 X 10(6) Da. Based on an increase in DNA density when nuclei were incubated in the presence of BrdUTP rather than dTTP, 16% of the nucleotides were added during the in vitro reaction. Sucrose gradient analysis of DNA polymerase activity in extracts of isolated nuclei demonstrated the nearly exclusive presence of herpes DNA polymerase. Km concentrations for the four dNTPs were from 0.14 to 0.55 microM. DNA synthesis was inhibited competitively by the 5'-triphosphates of ara-A and ara-C (Ki = 0.03 and 0.22 microM, respectively) but not by the 5'-triphosphate of dideoxythymidine. aATP also served as a substrate (Km = 0.014 microM) for the reaction. We conclude that nuclei from HSV-infected cells have significant advantages for the detailed study of inhibitors of herpesvirus replication.