The induction of several SOS genes of Escherichia coli by fluoroquinolones has been studied. Three different SOS gene fusions (recA:: lacZ, umuC::lacZ and sulA::lacZ) have been introduced into the E.coli MC1061 strain to study the induction of these SOS genes in the same genetic background. Data on the basal level of expression of these fusions, as well as their induction by mitomycin C and N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine are presented. Using these strains, we have found that, like nalidixic acid, ofloxacin, enoxacin and ciprofloxacin are strong inducers of the SOS genes tested, umuC gene expression being the highest. Furthermore, fluoroquinolones produced a significant increase in the reversion of the base substitution hisG428 mutation in the TA102 Salmonella tester strain, while no effect was found in strains TA98, TA100, TA1537 and TA1535. These data indicate that the error-prone repair pathway can participate in mutagenesis induced by fluoroquinolones and also that the damage produced by these chemicals may be similar to that produced by nalidixic acid. © 1990 Oxford University Press.