The incorporation of fluorescently labeled dideoxynucleotides by T7 DNA polymerase is optimized by the use of Mn2+, fluorescein analogs and four 2'-deoxyribonucleoside 5'-O-(1-thiotriphosphates) (dNTP alpha S's). The one-tube extension protocol was tested on single-stranded templates, as well as PCR fragments which were made single-stranded by digestion with T7 gene 6 exonuclease. Dye primer sequencing using four dNTP alpha S's was shown to give uniform termination patterns which were comparable to four dNTPs. Efficiency of the polymerase also appeared to improve with the dNTP alpha S's. A mathematical model was developed to predict the pattern of termination based on enzyme activity and ratios of ddNTP/dNTPs. This method can be used to optimize sequencing reactions and to estimate enzyme discrimination constants of chain terminators.