We studied the effects of various phospholipids on the DNA synthesizing reactions by calf thymus DNA polymerases alpha, delta, and epsilon. Of these three enzymes, DNA polymerase epsilon was most sensitive to acidic phospholipids, i.e., phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidylinositol 4-monophosphate (PIP), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidic acid (PA), and cardiolipin (CAR). Of these acidic phospholipids, PI (from bovine liver) is of special interest because it inhibited DNA polymerase epsilon much strongly than DNA polymerase alpha and delta. The inhibition of DNA polymerase epsilon by PI was competitive with the DNA template-primer and was noncompetitive with dTTP substrate. The Ki value was estimated to be 16 microM. These results indicate that PI from bovine liver can be used as a specific inhibitor for DNA polymerase epsilon to analyze its role in DNA replication. Interestingly, the PI isolated from soybean, which has a different fatty acid composition, inhibited not only DNA polymerase epsilon but also DNA polymerase alpha.