umuC is the genetic locus showing the greatest specificity for the "error-prone repair" process that is responsible for u.v. and chemical mutagenesis in Escherichia coli. By generating a probe specific to umuC DNA, we have been able to clone the umuC locus. Through a combination of subcloning and Tn1000 mutagenesis, we have identified a region of 2.2 X 10(3) bases which contains the information necessary to complement umuC mutations. This region of DNA codes for two polypeptides with molecular weights of 16,000 and 45,000. The genes for these proteins are organized in an operon that is repressed by the lexA protein. Complementation of previously isolated umuC mutations revealed that these proteins correspond to two complementation groups, umuC, which codes for the 45,000 Mr protein, and umuD, which codes for the 16,000 Mr protein, and that therefore both proteins are essential for "error-prone repair" in E. coli.