Mutagenic DNA adducts have been analyzed with respect to the rate of nucleotide insertion opposite the modified base, extension from that "mispair", and nucleotide insertion preference. To complement and extend these studies we have investigated the long-range effects of DNA adducts on DNA polymerase activity. To address this question, primer extension reactions were performed using DNA polymerase I, Klenow fragment exo-. Templates containing 7,8-dihydro-8-oxoguanine, dG-C8-aminofluorene, dG-C8-(acetylamino)fluorene, and the model abasic site, tetrahydrofuran, were used for these studies, and the steady-state kinetics of correct nucleotide insertion were determined at positions (-2), (-1), (+1), (+2), (+3), and (+5) with respect to the template lesion. The kinetics of primer extension by Klenow fragment exo- at template positions 3' to the lesion showed only a small inhibitory effect, <3-fold, even for the strongly blocking lesion, dG-C8-(acetylamino)fluorene, indicating that Klenow fragment exo- activity is not greatly affected by lesions in the single-stranded portion of the template-primer. In contrast, a dramatic decrease in the frequency of primer extension was observed at template sites 5' to the site of adduction. Inhibition of polymerase activity decreased as the distance from the lesion increased; however, a relatively large effect was seen at the (+2) and (+3) positions for dG-C8-(acetylamino)fluorene and tetrahydrofuran. For these blocking lesions, the effect on extension 5 bases from the lesion was greatly reduced. We conclude from these studies that DNA damage at positions remote from the site of the lesion affects DNA polymerase function.