The genetic basis of the effects of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on the induction of contact hypersensitivity (CH) to dinitrofluorobenzene (DNFB) has been explored in genetically defined mice. It was found that acute, low-dose UVB radiation produced profound depletion of epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) at UVB-treated sites in all strains of mice tested. However, when DNFB was applied to UVB radiation sites, unresponsiveness developed in some strains of mice, but vigorous contact hypersensitivity was induced in others. The UVB-susceptible phenotype proved dominant or codominant in F1 hybrids derived from parental strains of the susceptible and UVB-resistant phenotypes. Experiments conducted in one set of F1 hybrids derived from two UVB-susceptible parental strains displayed UVB resistance, suggesting gene complementation, and showed that more than one genetic locus was involved. Segregant backcross populations, analyzed for the capacity to develop CH after UVB treatment and skin painting with DNFB, revealed that at least two, and probably three, independent genetic loci participate in determining UVB resistance. Results of experiments with H-2 congenic and recombinant mice derived from the B10 background implicated class I genes of the major histocompatibility complex as relevant genetic factors. These results indicate that there is a dissociation between the effects of UVB radiation on epidermal Langerhans cells and the capacity of a cutaneous surface to support the induction of contact hypersensitivity. The data indicate that the induction of CH to haptens is dependent on normal numbers of functional LC at the skin painting site only in some strains of mice. The data imply that in the so-called UVB-resistant strains of mice, alternative (non-Langerhans cell-dependent) mechanisms allow for the induction of CH. Several independent genetic loci, one of which appears to be H-2, govern this UVB-related effect.