Overproducers of exonuclease III (exo III) were found within a colony bank containing ColE1-Escherichia coli hybrid plasmids. Through the enzymatic ligation of restriction enzyme fragments, the exo III gene, xth, was transferred to a thermoinducible, integration-proficient lambda phage and to a chimeric ColE1-lambda plasmid that was thermoinducible for lambda-directed DNA replication. Transfer of the xth gene was facilitated by a technique involving prior selection for Tn5 insertions into plasmid, thereby linking the gene to additional restriction sites and to a selectable (drug resistance) marker. After heat induction, cells bearing the thermoinducible ColE1-lambda-xth plasmid produced 120-fold more exo III than did plasmid-free cells. Enzyme production was not further enhanced by any of the following chromosomal mutations: dnaA, recBC, tob, or nusA snu. Several observations suggested that enzyme over-synthesis was the result primarily of lambda-detected replication rather than lambda-directed transcription.