This paper describes the construction of a DNA molecule containing a topologically stable structure that simulates a replication fork. This preformed DNA molecule is a circular duplex of 7.2 X 10(3) base pairs (M13mp6 DNA) from which arises, at a unique BamHI recognition site, a noncomplementary 5'-phosphoryl-terminated single strand of 237 nucleotides (SV40 DNA). This structure has two experimental attributes. 1) Templates for both leading and lagging strand synthesis exist as stable structures prior to any DNA synthesis. 2) DNA synthesis creates a cleavage site for the restriction endonuclease BamHI. Form I of T7 DNA polymerase, alone, catalyzes limited DNA synthesis at the preformed replication fork whereas Form II, alone, polymerizes less than 5 nucleotides. However, when T7 gene 4 protein is present, Form II of T7 DNA polymerase catalyzes rapid and extensive synthesis via a rolling circle mode. Kinetic analysis of this synthesis reveals that the fork moves at a rate of 300 bases/s at 30 degrees C. We conclude that the T7 gene 4 protein requires a single-stranded DNA binding site from which point it translocates to the replication fork where it functions as a helicase. The phage T4 DNA polymerase catalyzes DNA synthesis at this preformed replication fork in the presence of gene 4 protein, but the amount of DNA synthesized is less that 3% of the amount synthesized by the combination of Form II of T7 DNA polymerase and gene 4 protein. We conclude that T7 DNA polymerase and T7 gene 4 protein interact specifically during DNA synthesis at a replication fork.