Processivity of T7 DNA polymerase relies on the coupling of its cofactor Escherichia coli thioredoxin (Trx) to gene 5 protein (gp5) at 1:1 stoichiometry. We designed a coexpression system for gp5 and Trx that allows in vivo reconstitution of subunits into a functional enzyme. The properties of this enzyme were compared with the activity of commercial T7 DNA polymerase. Examination of purified enzymes by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed that the thioredoxin subunit of the two enzymes did not comigrate. To our surprise, we identified a mutation (Phe102 to Ser) in the Trx component from the commercial T7 DNA polymerase (gp5/TrxS102) that was not in the enzyme from the coexpression system (wild type gp5/Trx). A comparison of polymerase activity of the T7 DNA polymerases shows that both enzymes possessed similar specific activity but they were different in their residual activity at 37 degrees C. The half-life of gp5/TrxS102 was 7 min at 37 degrees C and 12 min for gp5/Trx. gp5/TrxS102 polymerase activity was reduced by fourfold with 3'-5' exonuclease activity as the prominent activity detected after 10 min of heat inactivation at 37 degrees C. Supplementation of reaction mixtures containing gp5/TrxS102 with exogenous nonmutant thioredoxin restored the enzyme activity levels. Pulse proteolysis was used to demonstrate that TrxS102 unfolded at lower urea concentrations than wild type thioredoxin. Thus, Ser substitution at position 102 affected the structural stability of thioredoxin resulting in a reduced binding affinity for gp5 and loss of processivity.