A proteolytic fragment of recA protein, missing about 15% of the protein at the C terminus, was found to promote assimilation of homologous single-stranded DNA into duplex DNA more efficiently than intact recA protein. This difference was not found if Escherichia coli single-stranded DNA binding protein was present. The ATPase activity of both intact recA protein and the fragment was identical. The difference in strand assimilation activity cannot be due to differences in single-stranded DNA affinity, since both the fragment and intact proteins bind to single-stranded DNA with nearly identical affinities. However, the fragment was found to bind double-stranded DNA more tightly and to aggregate more extensively than recA protein; both of these properties may be important in strand assimilation. Aggregation of the fragment was extensive in the presence of duplex DNA under the same condition where recA protein did not aggregate. The double-stranded DNA binding of both recA protein and the fragment responds to nucleotide cofactors in the same manner as single-stranded DNA binding, i.e. ADP weakens and ATP gamma S strengthens the association. The missing C-terminal region of recA protein includes a very acidic region that is homologous to other single-stranded DNA binding proteins and which has been implicated in DNA binding modulation. This C-terminal region may serve a similar function in recA protein, possibly inhibiting double-stranded DNA invasion. The possible role of the enhanced double-stranded DNA affinity of the fragment protein in the mechanism of strand assimilation is discussed.