Evidence documenting the requirement for a functional DNA polymerase I when Salmonella typhimurium LT2 uses ethanolamine (EA), 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PDL), or propionate (PRP) as the sole carbon and energy source is presented. Providing rat polymerase beta in trans demonstrated that the growth phenotypes observed were due exclusively to the lack of DNA polymerase I functions. The location of the mutation (a MudI1734 insertion) that rendered cells unable to grow on EA, 1,2-PDL, or PRP was determined by DNA sequencing to be within the polA gene. polA mutants of this bacterium may be unable to repair the damage caused by reactive aldehydes generated during the catabolism of EA, 1,2-PDL, or PRP. Consistent with this hypothesis, the inhibitory effects of acetaldehyde and propionaldehyde on the growth of this polA mutant were demonstrated. A derivative of the polA mutant unable to synthesize glutathione (GSH) was markedly more sensitive to acetaldehyde and propionaldehyde than was the polA mutant proficient in GSH synthesis. This finding was in agreement with the recently proposed role of GSH as a mechanism for quenching reactive aldehydes generated during the catabolism of these compounds (M. R. Rondon, R. Kazmierczack, and J. C. Escalante-Semerena, J. Bacteriol. 177:5434-5439, 1995).