The time course of the intracellular ATP concentration in several UV-irradiated RecA protease constitutuve (Cptc) mutants of E. coli has been studied. All Cptc mutants harboring a mutation in region 3 of the RecA protein (including amino acid residues 298-301) increased ATP after UV damage but without any subsequent decrease. Nevertheless, these mutants induced the SOS response after UV irradiation. Likewise, truncated RecA proteins lacking region 3 are also unable to carry out massive ATP hydrolysis in UV-irradiated cells. On the other hand, mutants in region 1 (including amino acids 25-39) or 2 (amino acids 157-184) of the RecA protein showed increase in ATP concentration during the first 20 min following UV irradiation, which dropped afterwards to the basal level. All these data indicate that region 3 of the RecA protein must be involved in the ATP hydrolysis process. Futhermore, a relationship between the quantity of the UV-mediated ATP produced and the strength of the different RecA Cptc mutants has also been found. Accordingly, both lexA71::Tn5 and null lexA mutants of E. coli only show a cellular ATP increase after UV irradiation when containing a multicopy plasmid carrying either a wild-type lexA or a lexA(Ind-) gene. © 1992.