The initiation of simian virus 40 (SV40) replication requires recognition of the viral origin of replication (ori) by SV40 T antigen, followed by denaturation of ori in a reaction dependent upon human replication protein A (hRPA). To understand how origin denaturation is achieved, we constructed a 48-bp SV40 "pseudo-origin" with a central 8-nucleotide (nt) bubble flanked by viral sequences, mimicking a DNA structure found within the SV40 T antigen-ori complex. hRPA bound the pseudo-origin with similar stoichiometry and an approximately fivefold reduced affinity compared to the binding of a 48-nt single-stranded DNA molecule. The presence of hRPA not only distorted the duplex DNA flanking the bubble but also resulted in denaturation of the pseudo-origin substrate in an ATP-independent reaction. Pseudo-origin denaturation occurred in 7 mM MgCl2, distinguishing this reaction from Mg2+-independent DNA-unwinding activities previously reported for hRPA. Tests of other single-stranded DNA-binding proteins (SSBs) revealed that pseudo-origin binding correlates with the known ability of these SSBs to support the T-antigen-dependent origin unwinding activity. Our results suggest that hRPA binding to the T antigen-ori complex induces the denaturation of ori including T-antigen recognition sequences, thus releasing T antigen from ori to unwind the viral DNA. The denaturation activity of hRPA has the potential to play a significant role in other aspects of DNA metabolism, including DNA repair.