Deletion of the first 289 amino acids of the DNA polymerase from Thermus aquaticus (Taq polymerase) removes the 5' to 3' exonuclease domain to yield the thermostable Stoffel polymerase fragment (Lawyer et al., 1989). Preliminary N-terminal truncation studies of the Stoffel fragment suggested that removal of an additional 12 amino acids (the Stof delta 12 mutant) had no significant effect on activity or stability, but that the further truncation of the protein (the Stof delta 47, in which 47 amino acids were deleted), resulted in a significant loss of both activity and thermostability. A 33-amino acid synthetic peptide, based on this critical region (i.e., residues 303-335 inclusive), was able to restore 85% of the Stof delta 12 activity when added back to the truncated Stof delta 47 protein as well as return the temperature optimum to that of the Stof delta 12 and Stoffel proteins. Examination of the crystal structure of Taq polymerase (Kim et al., 1995) shows that residues 302-336 of the enzyme form a three-stranded beta-sheet structure that interacts with the remainder of the protein. CD analysis of the 33-amino acid peptide indicates that the free peptide also adopts an ordered structure in solution with more than 50% beta-sheet content. These data suggest that this 33-amino acid peptide constitutes a stable beta-sheet structure capable of rescuing the truncated polymerase in a fashion analogous to the well-documented complementation of Ribonuclease S protein by the 15-residue, alpha-helical, S peptide.