With the use of an in vitro complementation assay to measure activity, the gene 4 protein of bacteriophage T7 has been purified 1000-fold to yield a nearly homogeneous protein. The purified gene 4 protein is a single polypeptide having a molecular weight of 58,000. In addition to being essential for T7 DNA replication in vivo and in vitro, the gene 4 protein is required for DNA synthesis by the purified T7 DNA polymerase on duplex T7 DNA templates. In the absence of ribonucleoside 5'-triphosphates, DNA synthesis by the gene 4 protein and the T7 DNA polymerase is dependent on phosphodiester bond interruptions containing 3'-hydroxyl groups (nicks) in the duplex DNA. The reaction is specific for the T7 DNA polymerase, but any duplex DNA containing nicks can serve as template. The Km for nicks in the reaction is 3 x 10(-10) M.