An important not yet fully understood event in DNA replication is the DNA polymerase (pol) switch from pol alpha to pol delta. Indirect evidence suggested that the clamp loader replication factor C (RF-C) plays an important role, since a replication competent protein complex containing pol alpha, pol delta and RF-C could perform pol switching in the presence of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). By using purified pol alpha/primase, pol delta, RF-C, PCNA and RP-A we show that: (i) RF-C can inhibit pol alpha in the presence of ATP prior to PCNA loading, (ii) RF-C decreases the affinity of pol alpha for the 3'OH primer ends, (iii) the inhibition of pol alpha by RF-C is released upon PCNA loading, (iv) ATP hydrolysis is required for PCNA loading and subsequent release of inhibition of pol alpha, (v) under these conditions a switching from pol alpha/primase to pol delta is evident. Thus, RF-C appears to be critical for the pol alpha to pol delta switching. Based on these results, a model is proposed in which RF-C induces the pol switching by sequestering the 3'-OH end from pol alpha and subsequently recruiting PCNA to DNA.