In Escherichia coli, cell survival and genomic stability after UV radiation depends on repair mechanisms induced as part of the SOS response to DNA damage. The early phase of the SOS response is mostly dominated by accurate DNA repair, while the later phase is characterized with elevated mutation levels caused by error-prone DNA replication. SOS mutagenesis is largely the result of the action of DNA polymerase V (pol V), which has the ability to insert nucleotides opposite various DNA lesions in a process termed translesion DNA synthesis (TLS). Pol V is a low-fidelity polymerase that is composed of UmuD'(2)C and is encoded by the umuDC operon. Pol V is strictly regulated in the cell so as to avoid genomic mutation overload. RecA nucleoprotein filaments (RecA*), formed by RecA binding to single-stranded DNA with ATP, are essential for pol V-catalyzed TLS both in vivo and in vitro. This review focuses on recent studies addressing the protein composition of active DNA polymerase V, and the role of RecA protein in activating this enzyme. Based on unforeseen properties of RecA*, we describe a new model for pol V-catalyzed SOS-induced mutagenesis.