Leaf senescence is a developmentally programmed cell death process that constitutes the final step of leaf development and involves the extensive reprogramming of gene expression. Despite the importance of senescence in plants, the underlying regulatory mechanisms are not well understood. This study reports the isolation and functional analysis of RAV1, which encodes a RAV family transcription factor. Expression of RAV1 and its homologues is closely associated with leaf maturation and senescence. RAV1 mRNA increased at a later stage of leaf maturation and reached a maximal level early in senescence, but decreased again during late senescence. This profile indicates that RAV1 could play an important regulatory role in the early events of leaf senescence. Furthermore, constitutive and inducible overexpression of RAV1 caused premature leaf senescence. These data strongly suggest that RAV1 is sufficient to cause leaf senescence and it functions as a positive regulator in this process.