Rauscher leukemia virus RNA-directed DNA polymerase has been purified to near homogeneity (greater than 90% pure) using affinity chromatography on polycytidylate-agarose with over 85% recovery of input enzymatic activity. The purified enzyme has a molecular weight of approximately 70,000 and appears to consist of a single polypeptide chain. The enzyme is free of DNase, but has RNase H activity. Analysis of the requirements for optimal rates of DNA synthesis by this enzyme using synthetic and natural template-primers has revealed template-specific variations in such requirements. During these studies it was observed that DNA synthesis catalyzed by Rauscher leukemia virus DNA polymerase is inhibited by the addition of inorganic phosphate. An analysis of the mechanism of phosphate inhibition was carried out using the synthetic template-primer poly(A)-(dT)10. It appears that by some mechanism, possibly involving the substrate binding site of the enzyme, phosphate ions inhibit DNA synthesis with a more acute effect on the rate of chain growth than on that of initiation. The extension of these studies to DNA synthesis catalyzed by a variety of mammalian type C viral reverse transcriptases revealed that low levels ( less than or equal to 2 mM) of inorganic phosphate strongly inhibited DNA synthesis. The susceptibility to phosphate inhibition appears unique to mammalian type C viral enzymes since the type B viral enzyme, Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I, avian myeloblastosis virus and Mason Pfizer monkey tumor virus reverse transcriptase and cellular DNA polymerases alpha and gamma are not inhibited by inorganic phosphate. This phenomenon of phosphate inhibition of various DNA polymerases, therefore, provides a new basis for the differentiation of the sources and nature of these enzymes.