DNA polymerase III holoenzyme (holenzyme) has an ATPase activity elicited only by a primed DNA template. Reaction of preformed ATP.holoenzyme complex with a primed template results in hydrolysis of the ATP bound to the holoenzyme, release of ADP and Pi, and formation of an initiation complex between holoenzyme and the primed template. Approximately two ATP molecules are hydrolyzed for each initiation complex formed, a value in keeping with the number bound in the ATP.holoenzyme complex. The possibility that the latter and the initiation complex contain two holoenzyme molecules is supported by the presence of two beta monomers in the initiation complex. Holoenzyme action in the absence of ATP resembles that of pol III (the holoenzyme core) or DNA polymerase III (holoenzyme lacking the beta subunit), with or without ATP, in sensitivity to salt and in processivity of elongation. The initiation complex formed by ATP-activated holoenzyme resists a level of KCl (150 mM) that completely inhibits nonactivated holoenzyme and the incomplete forms of the holoenzyme, and displays a processivity at least 20 times greater. Upon completing replication of available template, holoenzyme can dissociate and form an initiation complex with another primed template, provided ATP is available to reactivate the holoenzyme. By inference, no essential subunits are lost in the cycle of initiation, elongation and dissociation.