DNA-dependent RNA polymerase from vegetative cells of the gram-negative, fruiting bacterium Myxococcus xanthus was purified more than 300-fold by a modified Burgess procedure (Lowe et al., Biochemistry 18:1344-1352, 1979), using Polymin P precipitation, 40 to 65% saturated ammonium sulfate fractional precipitation, double-stranded DNA cellulose chromatography, A5m gel filtration chromatography, and single-stranded DNA agarose chromatography. The last step separated the RNA polymerase into a core fraction and an enriched holoenzyme fraction. The core enzyme showed a subunit structure similar to that of the Escherichia coli polymerase, as follows: beta' and beta (145,000 and 140,000 daltons, respectively) and alpha (38,000 daltons). A comparison of the core enzyme and the holoenzyme implicated two polypeptides as possible sigma subunits. These polypeptides were closely related, as indicated by peptide analysis. M. xanthus RNA polymerase was capable of transcribing DNAs from E. coli phages T7, T4, and lambda, Bacillus subtilis phage phi 29, and M. xanthus phages Mx1, Mx4, and Mx8. Transcription of T7 and phi 29 DNAs was stimulated by KCl, whereas transcription of Mx1, Mx4, and Mx8 DNAs was inhibited by KCl. Magnesium ion dependence, rifampin and heparin sensitivities, and spermidine stimulation of M. xanthus RNA polymerase activity were similar to those found with E. coli RNA polymerase. The pH optimum of M. xanthus RNA polymerase activity was more basic than that of E. coli polymerase. M. xanthus RNA polymerase was capable of selective transcription in vitro when DNAs from phages T7 delta 111, phi 29, and Mx1 were used. The molecular weights of the resulting phage RNA transcripts made by M. xanthus RNA polymerase (as determined by agarose-acrylamide slab gel electrophoresis) were the same as the molecular weights of the transcripts synthesized by E. coli RNA polymerase. No discrete transcripts were detected as the in vitro RNA products of M. xanthus phage Mx4 and Mx8 DNA transcription. Southern transcript synthesized by M. xanthus RNA polymerase. Three transcripts (transcripts A, B, and C; molecular weights, 2.55 X 10(6), 1.95 X 10(6), and 1.56 X 10(6), respectively) were identified as in vitro RNA products of M. xanthus phage Mx1 DNA transcription when either E. coli or M. xanthus RNA polymerase was used. A Southern blot hybridization analysis indicated that the E. coli RNA polymerase and the M. xanthus RNA polymerase transcribe common SalI restriction fragments of Mx1 DNA.