The Escherichia coli beta sliding clamp protein is proposed to play an important role in effecting switches between different DNA polymerases during replication, repair, and translesion DNA synthesis. We recently described how strains bearing the dnaN159 allele, which encodes a mutant form of the beta clamp (beta159), display a UV-sensitive phenotype that is suppressed by inactivation of DNA polymerase IV (M. D. Sutton, J. Bacteriol. 186:6738-6748, 2004). As part of an ongoing effort to understand mechanisms of DNA polymerase management in E. coli, we have further characterized effects of the dnaN159 allele on polymerase usage. Three of the five E.coli DNA polymerases (II, IV, and V) are regulated as part of the global SOS response. Our results indicate that elevated expression of the dinB-encoded polymerase IV is sufficient to result in conditional lethality of the dnaN159 strain. In contrast, chronically activated RecA protein, expressed from the recA730 allele, is lethal to the dnaN159 strain, and this lethality is suppressed by mutations that either mitigate RecA730 activity (i.e., DeltarecR), or impair the activities of DNA polymerase II or DNA polymerase V (i.e., DeltapolB or DeltaumuDC). Thus, we have identified distinct genetic requirements whereby each of the three different SOS-regulated DNA polymerases are able to confer lethality upon the dnaN159 strain, suggesting the presence of multiple mechanisms by which the actions of the cell's different DNA polymerases are managed in vivo.