Induction of several SOS functions by mitomycin C, bleomycin or thermal treatment of a recA441 mutant growing under nitrate respiration conditions was studied in Escherichia coli. Mitomycin C caused inhibition of cell division, induction of prophages and expression of umuC gene but like in aerobically growing cells, it did not trigger the cessation of cell repiration. On the contrary, both recA+ and recA441 cultures either treated with bleomycin or incubated at 42°C failed to induce any of the different SOS functions cited above. Furthermore, after bleomycin addition or thermal treatment both recA+ and recA441 cultures did not present any variation in the cellular ATP level, contrary to what happens under aerobic growth. The blocking of the expression of some SOS functions under nitrate respiration conditions is not an irreversible process because cells incubated under these anaerobic conditions were able to induce the SOS system when changed to an aerobic medium 30 min after the SOS-inducing treatment had been applied. © 1986 Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.