It has been previously shown in vitro that the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 long terminal repeat (LTR) is activated by ultraviolet irradiation. In order to analyze if a similar effect could occur in vivo, transgenic mice carrying the lacZ gene under the control of the viral LTR were irradiated at 280-300 and 254 nm. These mice spontaneously expressed the transgene in the epidermis and the lens of both adults and embryos. Irradiations caused a significant increase in skin beta-galactosidase activity. This phenomenon might be involved in viral activation and could be of interest in regard to the skin pathology observed during an HIV infection.