We have examined the effect of growth phase in Escherichia coli on the translation of a plasmid-borne lacZ gene in which active enzyme synthesis requires a leftward frameshift. During the log phase of growth, the differential rate of enzyme synthesis is very low. It increases by about two orders of magnitude during the small amount of protein synthesis which occurs at the end of log phase and the early part of stationary phase. The increase is sufficient to increase the enzyme's specific activity in crude extracts to 30 times more than it would be if the log-phase differential rate continued unchanged. No such large increase is observed with a zero-frame lacZ+ control gene on the same plasmid under the control of the same promoter; a significant but much smaller increase is observed with a zero-frame control containing an in-frame terminator triplet in the region of the required frameshift. Protein sequence analysis of the enzyme made from the frameshift reporter in stationary cells shows that the increased enzyme synthesis is due to frameshifting, and not due to termination and reinitiation. The frameshift occurs at or right after the sequence U UUC AAG, an intrinsically shifty site.