We find that IS1 transposase, like that of Tn10, can induce the SOS response when produced at high levels. Most of the activity (> 80%) requires IS1 ends in cis to the transposase gene and depends strictly on the presence of RecBCD function. This implies that processing of transposase-induced cleavages is responsible for generating the response. Induction of the SOS response during growth in a rich medium is seen only when cells approach stationary phase. The end-dependent induction is abolished by mutations in the ends of IS1 that eliminate transposition activity. IS1 ends in identical orientation on the same plasmid are inactive in transposition but stimulate SOS strongly. Even plasmids with a single end can stimulate SOS, probably as a consequence of plasmid dimer formation which places the ends in direct repeat orientation. These results imply that transposase-induced cleavages do not need inversely oriented ends. The system can therefore be used to dissociate cleavage activity from the other reactions of transposition. Induction of SOS by a series of short (67 to 114 bp) IS1-like elements was found to occur in a cyclical pattern as a function of length with a period of 10 to 11 bp. The frequency of cointegration promoted by these elements showed the same helix-phase dependence. These results suggest that transposase molecules bound to the ends of IS1 interact, and that this interaction is needed for the cleavages that initiate transposition.