Replication slippage is a particular type of error caused by DNA polymerases believed to occur both in bacterial and eukaryotic cells. Previous studies have shown that deletion events can occur in Escherichia coli by replication slippage between short duplications and that the main E. coli polymerase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme is prone to such slippage. In this work, we present evidence that the two other DNA polymerases of E. coli, DNA polymerase I and DNA polymerase II, as well as polymerases of two phages, T4 (T4 pol) and T7 (T7 pol), undergo slippage in vitro, whereas DNA polymerase from another phage, Phi29, does not. Furthermore, we have measured the strand displacement activity of the different polymerases tested for slippage in the absence and in the presence of the E. coli single-stranded DNA-binding protein (SSB), and we show that: (i) polymerases having a strong strand displacement activity cannot slip (DNA polymerase from Phi29); (ii) polymerases devoid of any strand displacement activity slip very efficiently (DNA polymerase II and T4 pol); and (iii) stimulation of the strand displacement activity by E. coli SSB (DNA polymerase I and T7 pol), by phagic SSB (T4 pol), or by a mutation that affects the 3' --> 5' exonuclease domain (DNA polymerase II exo(-) and T7 pol exo(-)) is correlated with the inhibition of slippage. We propose that these observations can be interpreted in terms of a model, for which we have shown that high strand displacement activity of a polymerase diminishes its propensity to slip.