An in vitro system which replicates plasmid DNA containing the replication origin of adenovirus DNA has been established. Replication of plasmid pLA1 DNA, which contains the left-hand terminus (0-9.4 map units) of adenovirus serotype 5 DNA but which lacks the 55,000-dalton terminal protein, is initiated by a protein-primed mechanism in a manner similar to that found with adenovirus DNA. Initiation of DNA replication using plasmid pLA1 as a template requires (i) that the cloned adenovirus sequence be present at the terminus of a linearized (form III) DNA molecule ( Tamanoi , F., and Stillman , B. W. (1982) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 79, 2221-2225; van Bergen, B. G. M., van der Ley , P. A., van Driel , W., van Mansfield , A. D. M., and van der Vliet , P. A. (1983) Nucleic Acid Res. 11, 1975-1979), and (ii) the presence of the 80,000-dalton precursor to the 55,000-dalton terminal protein and the adenovirus coded DNA-dependent DNA polymerase. In the presence of the four deoxy-nucleoside triphosphates, the preterminal protein, the adenovirus coded DNA binding protein, and an extract prepared from uninfected HeLa nuclei, the adenovirus DNA polymerase can elongate the preterminal-protein dCMP initiation complex formed on pLA1 DNA to full length (6.6 kilobase) DNA molecules. These results suggest that the 55,000-dalton terminal protein covalently linked to the 5' termini of adenovirus DNA is not essential for the replication of this DNA.