UV irradiation of mammalian cells activates AP-1 through a Ras-dependent pathway, independently of DNA damage. We show that the yeast S. cerevisiae has a remarkably similar UV response involving the AP-1 factor Gcn4, which is distinct from the DNA damage response. Transcriptional activation of HIS3 and HIS4 by Gcn4 is triggered by UV irradiation in a Ras-dependent fashion. Moreover, resistance of yeast to UV irradiation is correlated with the level of Ras activity and Gcn4 function. Like mammalian cells in which activated Ras leads to increased c-Jun synthesis and phosphorylation, the effects in yeast involve increased translation of GCN4 mRNA and a posttranslational event. However, this effect on GCN4 translation is different from the response to amino acid or purine starvation. Therefore, a UV signaling pathway involving Ras and AP-1 is an ancient and universal mechanism involved in protection against damage to cellular components other than DNA.