We measured the production of untargeted mutations in the cI and cII genes of untreated lambda phage undergoing a lytic cycle in UV-irradiated bacterial hosts. As previously shown, treatment with 4 micrograms/ml of rifampicin during post-irradiation incubation inhibited amplification of the RecA protein in these cells. In addition, we observed a decreased mutation rate compared to the untreated, irradiated bacteria. Treatment with 4 micrograms/ml or 8 micrograms/ml rifampicin did not prevent the UV induction of the umuDC operon, as judged by assay of beta-galactosidase activity in a umuC-lacZ fusion strain. In contrast, the UV-induction of beta-galactosidase in the sulA-lacZ fusion strain was decreased by 4 micrograms/ml rifampicin. The inhibition of untargeted mutagenesis by this drug treatment was also observed in a strain constitutive for SOS functions (lexA (Def)) as well as in a RecA-overproducing plasmid strain, suggesting the requirement of other factor(s) in wild-type recA+ cells. An htpR165-carrying strain, that blocks induction of heat-shock proteins, exhibited normal UV-promoted mutagenesis. A correlation was observed between the cellular concentration of RecA protein, increased spontaneously by a temperature shift in a lexA(Ts) strain, and the extent of UV-promoted untargeted mutagenesis. These results suggest a mechanistic role of RecA protein in this process.