Bacteriophage PRD1 replicates its DNA by means of a protein-primed replication mechanism. Using single-stranded oligonucleotide templates carrying the sequence corresponding to the 25 first bases of the 3' end of PRD1 DNA, and Mg2+ as the activating metal ion of the phage DNA polymerase, we show that the fourth base from the 3' end of the template directs, by base complementarity, the dNMP to be linked to the phage terminal protein (TP) in the initiation reaction. This result suggests that phage PRD1 maintains its 3' end DNA sequences via a sliding-back mechanism. The single-stranded DNA templates could not be replicated by the PRD1 DNA polymerase, much in contrast to the natural TP-DNA. Nevertheless, the analysis of the transition products obtained with TP-DNA and origin-containing oligonucleotides suggests that sliding-back occurs stepwise, the fourth base being the directing position during the entire process.