Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation induces skin photoaging associated with up-regulated matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression. Inhibition of MMP expression is suggested to alleviate photoaging induced by UV irradiation. Astragaloside IV (As-IV), one of the main active ingredients of Astragalus membranaceus (Fisch) Bge, has been reported to have various biological activities. However, its anti-photoaging effect has not been examined to date. In the present study, we observed the effect of As-IV on matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) expression in UV-irradiated human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs). We found that treatment with As-IV significantly decreased UV-induced MMP-1 expression at the messenger RNA and protein levels. In addition, western blotting analysis revealed that As-IV concentration-dependently suppressed UV-induced phosphorylation of extracellular-regulated protein kinase, Jun-N-terminal kinase and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Furthermore, treatment with As-IV markedly inhibited UV-induced nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) activity. These results suggest that As-IV down-regulates UV-induced MMP-1 expression, perhaps through suppression of MAPK and NF-κB activation in HDFs. As-IV is thus a potential agent for the management of skin photoaging.