Ultraviolet light enhances the synthesis of at least eight abundant proteins in human fibroblasts within 2 hr. These proteins are identical with those induced by the tumor promoter TPA. The inducing signal is generated by DNA damage, as these proteins are induced by lower doses of UV in fibroblasts from patients with Cockayne's syndrome or Xeroderma pigmentosum. In the supernatant of UV-treated cells, a heat-labile ammonium sulfate precipitable factor of more than 10 kd (EPIF) was detected which, upon transfer to nonirradiated cells, mimicked UV in the UV-induced synthesis of gene products. The response to UV, TPA, or EPIF was inhibited by fluocinolone acetonide, but not by retinoic acid, protease inhibitors, or superoxide dismutase.