In simian virus 40 (SV40) and several other polyomaviruses, the TATA box of the early promoter is embedded in an AT tract that is also an essential part of the replication origin. We generated an 'AT trap', an SV40 genome lacking the AT tract and unable to grow in CV-1 monkey cells. Co-transfection of the AT trap with oligonucleotides containing AT tracts of human polyomaviruses, a poly(A : T) tract or variants of the SV40 WT sequence all restored infectious virus. In a transfection of the AT trap without a suitable oligonucleotide, an AT-rich segment was incorporated, stemming either from bovine (calf serum) or monkey (host cell) DNA. Similarly, when cells were grown with human serum, a human DNA segment was captured by SV40 to substitute for the missing AT stretch. We conclude that the virus is quite opportunistic in accepting heterologous substitutes, and that even low-abundance DNA from serum can be incorporated into the viral genome.