A system to isolate lexA-like genes of bacteria directly was developed. It is based upon the fact that the presence of a lexA(Def) mutation is lethal to SulA+ cells of Escherichia coli. This system is composed of a SulA- LexA(Def) HsdR- strain and a lexA-conditional killer vector (plasmid pUA165) carrying the wild-type sulA gene of E. coli and a polylinker in which foreign DNA may be inserted. By using this method, the lexA-like genes of Salmonella typhimurium, Erwinia carotovora, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and P. putida were cloned. We also found that the LexA repressor of S. typhimurium presented the highest affinity for the SOS boxes of E. coli in vivo, whereas the LexA protein of P. aeruginosa had the lowest. Likewise, all of these LexA repressors were cleaved by the activated RecA protein of E. coli after DNA damage. Furthermore, under high-stringency conditions, the lexA gene of E. coli hybridized with the lexA genes of S. typhimurium and E. carotovora but not with those of P. aeruginosa and P. putida.