Models have been proposed suggesting that initiation of adenovirus DNA replication might occur via a hairpin mechanism. A consequence of the models is a covalent linkage of progeny and parental DNA in newly completed molecules. Analysis of mature molecules from KB cells infected with adenovirus type 5 indicates that, if a hairpin mechanism is involved, the length of the hairpin must be shorter than 50 basepairs long. Recent nucleotide sequence analysis of the termini of adenovirus type 5 DNA (P.H.Steenbergh et al. (1977) Nucl. Acids Res. 4, 4371-4389) has shown that a hairpin of this size does not exist and that therefore a hairpin mechanism is unlikely.