Polyethylene glycol enhances reverse transcription, augmenting both the rate and duration of polymerization. The effective mean molecular weight of polyethylene glycol is 6000 and the optimal concentration is 12% (w/w). Polyethylene glycol is effective on the reverse transcriptase reaction of all ten type B, C, and D viruses tested under a variety of exogenous, endogenous, and reconstitution assay systems, including the highly efficient conditions involving calf thymus DNA oligonucleotide primers. By three methods of synthesis, polyethylene glycol increased the yields of complementary [3H]DNA by a factor of 1.8--6.5. Polyethylene glycol does not alter the divalent cation requirements of the specificities of the enzyme. Complementary [3H]DNAs made in the presence of polyethylene glycol are indistinguishable in terms of size and sequence complementarity from those made in the absence of the polymer. The stimulatory effect was partly due to the ability of polyethylene glycol to stabilize reverse transcriptase. Preliminary tests indicate that polyethylene glycol also stimulates other nucleotide polymerases, such as the DNA-dependent DNA and RNA polymerases of Escherichia coli and the terminal transferase of calf thymus.