A fusion between the promoter of the nrdA gene of Escherichia coli and the lacZ gene has been constructed, and the induction of nrdA gene expression by 20 organic and 20 inorganic chemicals has been studied. The inducing compounds of the SOS genes, such as bleomycin, captan, ciprofloxacin, enoxacin, hydroxyurea, N-methyl-N'nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine, mitomycin C, nalidixic acid, ofloxacin and hexavalent chromium compounds also trigger the expression of the nrdA gene. Other chemicals such as aluminium, manganese and zinc salts, reported as negative in the SOS Chromotest, are also inducers of the nrdA gene. These results suggest that ribonucleoside diphosphate reductase transcription is increased by chemicals able to either block DNA synthesis or to alter the enzymes participating in the DNA replication. Induction of nrdA gene is an effect to be further considered in the study of alterations produced by physical or chemical treatments which act upon DNA metabolism. © 1992 Oxford University Press.