Previous characterization of Escherichia coli endonuclease IV has shown that the enzyme specifically cleaves the DNA backbone at apurinic/apyrimidinic sites and removes 3' DNA blocking groups. By contrast, and unlike the major apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease exonuclease III, negligible exonuclease activity has been associated with endonuclease IV. Here we report that endonuclease IV does possess an intrinsic 3'-5' exonuclease activity. The activity was detected in purified preparations of the endonuclease IV protein from E. coli and from the distantly related thermophile Thermotoga maritima; it co-eluted with both enzymes under different chromatographic conditions. Induction of either endonuclease IV in an E. coli overexpression system resulted in induction of the exonuclease activity, and the E. coli exonuclease activity had similar heat stability to the endonuclease IV A-P endonuclease activity. Characterization of the exonuclease activity showed that its progression on substrate is sensitive to ionic strength, metal ions, EDTA, and reducing conditions. Substrates with 3' recessed ends were preferred substrates for the 3'-5' exonuclease activity. Comparison of the relative apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease and exonuclease activity of endonuclease IV shows that the relative exonuclease activity is high and is likely to be significant in vivo.