The Escherichia coli polB gene encodes DNA polymerase II and is regulated by the SOS system. We sequenced a 4081 nucleotide segment of the E. coli chromosome that contains the polB gene and its flanking regions. DNA polymerase II, as deduced from the DNA sequence, consists of 782 amino acids, has a molecular weight of 89,917, and is structurally homologous to alpha-like DNA polymerases, which include eukaryotic replicative DNA polymerases. Comparison of the sequences of the alpha-like DNA polymerases including E. coli DNA polymerase II showed that there were nine highly conserved regions, and we constructed an unrooted phylogenetic tree of the DNA polymerases based on the differences in these conserved regions. The DNA polymerases of herpes groups viruses and the DNA polymerases that use protein priming for the initiation of replication form two separate subfamilies that occupy opposite locations in the tree. Other DNA polymerases, including E. coli DNA polymerase II, human DNA polymerase alpha, and yeast DNA polymerase I, occupy the central regions between the two subfamilies and they are rather distantly related to each other. The transcription initiation site of polB was identified by analysis of in vivo transcripts, and the promoter was assigned upstream of the polB coding region. The recognition sequence of the LexA repressor (SOS box) was identified by a footprinting experiment. It overlaps the -35 sequence of the polB promoter.