The long terminal repeat (LTR) of Moloney murine sarcoma virus (Mo-MuSV) was used as a model system to study the stress response of mammalian cells to physical carcinogens. The chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene was inserted between two Mo-MuSV LTRs, and the LTR-CAT-LTR construct was used for virus production and was integrated into the genome of NIH 3T3 cells in the proviral form. This construct was used to assure that the integrated CAT gene was driven by the promoter of the LTR. Expression of the CAT gene was stimulated 4-fold by UV irradiation, and the peak of activity was observed at 18 hr. In contrast, stimulation of the CAT expression after x-irradiation was 2-fold and occurred at 6 hr. Phorbol myristate acetate also stimulated CAT activity 4-fold with a peak at 6 hr. Down-regulation of protein kinase C blocked totally the response to x-irradiation but only partially the response to UV. The protein kinase inhibitor H7 blocked the response to treatment by UV, x-ray, and phorbol ester.