HeLa cells contain a serine/threonine protein kinase (DNA-PK) that is strongly activated in vitro by low concentrations of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). Activation was specific for dsDNA; both natural DNAs and synthetic oligonucleotides functioned as kinase activators. The fact that DNA-PK activity was rapidly inhibited by incubation with dsDNA and ATP suggests that DNA-PK activity also may be regulated by autophosphorylation. During gel filtration, DNA-PK activity behaved as a 350-kDa protein, and highly purified DNA-PK contained a dsDNA-binding, 350-kDa polypeptide that was phosphorylated in a dsDNA-dependent manner. We conclude that this 350-kDa polypeptide is likely to be DNA-PK. Previously we showed that the dsDNA-activated kinase phosphorylates two threonines at the N terminus of hsp90 alpha (S. P. Lees-Miller and C. W. Anderson, J. Biol. Chem. 264:17275-17280, 1989). Here we show that DNA-PK also phosphorylates the simian virus 40 large tumor antigen, the mouse tumor-suppressor protein p53, the human Ku autoantigen, and two unidentified HeLa DNA-associated polypeptides of 52 and 110 kDa. Identification of these and other newly identified DNA-binding substrates suggest that the dsDNA-activated kinase may regulate transcription, DNA replication, or cell growth.