We investigated the effect of UV radiation on early signaling events in the response of young tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) to wounding. Ultraviolet-C (< 280 nm) and UVB/UVA (280-390 nm) radiation both induced 48 kDa myelin basic protein kinase activity in leaves. The activation was associated with phosphorylation of tyrosine residues on the kinase, which is indicative of protein kinases of the mitogen-activated protein kinase family. Ultraviolet-C irradiation resulted in a strong proteinase inhibitor synthesis, as reported previously (Conconi et al., Nature 383, 826-829, 1996). Under the conditions used, UVB/UVA radiation did not induce proteinase inhibitor synthesis but resulted in a strong potentiation of systemic proteinase inhibitor synthesis in response to wounding. The UVB/UVA-irradiated plants that were subsequently wounded accumulated 2.5-4-fold higher levels of proteinase inhibitor I when compared to wounded non-irradiated plants. The potentiating effect was most prominent in the systemic unwounded leaf of a wounded plant. Levels of 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid and jasmonic acid that have been well documented to increase in response to wounding were not detected in response to UVB/UVA irradiation alone. The effect of UVB/UVA radiation in potentiating plant defense signaling should be further considered as a factor that may influence the ecological balance between plants and their predators.