To investigate the interactions that determine DNA polymerase accuracy, we have measured the fidelity of 26 mutants with amino acid substitutions in the polymerase domain of a 3'-5'-exonuclease-deficient Klenow fragment. Most of these mutant polymerases synthesized DNA with an apparent fidelity similar to that of the wild-type control, suggesting that fidelity at the polymerase active site depends on highly specific enzyme-substrate interactions and is not easily perturbed. In addition to the previously studied Y766A mutator, four novel base substitution mutators were identified; they are R668A, R682A, E710A, and N845A. Each of these five mutator alleles results from substitution of a highly conserved amino acid side chain located on the exposed surface of the polymerase cleft near the polymerase active site. Analysis of base substitution errors at four template positions indicated that each of the five mutator polymerases has its own characteristic error specificity, suggesting that the Arg-668, Arg-682, Glu-710, Tyr-766, and Asn-845 side chains may contribute to polymerase fidelity in a variety of different ways. We separated the contributions of the nucleotide insertion and mismatch extension steps by using a novel fidelity assay that scores base substitution errors during synthesis to fill a single nucleotide gap (and hence does not require mismatch extension) and by measuring the rates of polymerase-catalyzed mismatch extension reactions. The R682A, E710A, Y766A, and N845A mutations cause decreased fidelity at the nucleotide insertion step, whereas R668A results in lower fidelity in both nucleotide insertion and mismatch extension. Relative to wild type, several Klenow fragment mutants showed substantially more discrimination against extension of a T.G mismatch under the conditions of the fidelity assay, providing one explanation for the anti-mutator phenotypes of mutants such as R754A and Q849A.