The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA polymerase catalytic subunit, BALF5 gene product, possesses an intrinsic 3'-to 5' proofreading exonuclease activity in addition to 5'-to-3' DNA polymerase activity (T. Tsurumi, A. Kobayashi, K. Tamai, T. Daikoku, R. Kurachi, and Y. Nishiyama, J. Virol. 67:4651-4658, 1993). The exonuclease hydrolyzed both double-and single-stranded DNA substrates with 3'-to-5' directionality, releasing deoxyribonucleoside 5'-monophosphates. The double-strand exonucleolytic activity catalyzed by the BALF5 polymerase catalytic subunit was very sensitive to high ionic strength, whereas the single-strand exonucleolytic activity was moderately resistant. The addition of the BMRF1 polymerase accessory subunit to the reaction enhanced the double-strand exonucleolytic activity in the presence of high concentrations of ammonium sulfate (fourfold stimulation at 75 mM ammonium sulfate). Optimal stimulation was obtained when the molar ratio of BMRF1 protein to BALF5 protein was 2 and higher, identical to the values required for reconstituting the optimum DNA polymerizing activity (T. Tsurumi, T. Daikoku, R. Kurachi, and Y. Nishiyama, J. Virol. 67:7648-7653, 1993). Furthermore, product size analyses revealed that the polymerase catalytic subunit alone excised a few nucleotides from the 3' termini of the primer hybridized to template DNA and that the addition of the BMFR1 polymerase accessory subunit stimulated the nucleotide excision several times. In contrast, the hydrolysis of single-stranded DNA by the BALF5 protein was not affected by the addition of the BMRF1 polymerase accessory subunit at all. These observations suggest that the BMRF1 polymerase accessory subunit forms a complex with the BALF5 polymerase catalytic subunit to stabilize the interaction of the holoenzyme complex with the 3'-OH end of the primer on the template DNA during exonucleolysis. On the other hand, challenger DNA experiments revealed that the BALF5 polymerase catalytic subunit alone stably binds to the primer terminus in a stationary state, whereas the reconstituted polymerase holoenzyme is unstable. The instability of the initiation complex of the EBV DNA polymerase would allow the rapid removal of the EBV DNA polymerase holoenzyme from the lagging strand after it has replicated up to the previous Okazaki fragment. This feature of the EBV DNA polymerase holoenzyme in a stationary state is in marked contrast to the moving holoenzyme complex tightly bound to the primer end during polymerization and exonucleolysis.