Photolyases are thought to be critical components of the defense of plants against damage to DNA by solar ultraviolet light, but nothing is known about their molecular or enzymatic nature. The molecular cloning of a photolyase from mustard (Sinapis alba) described here is intended to increase the knowledge about this important repair mechanism in plant species at a molecular level. The gene encodes a polypeptide of 501 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 57 kDa. There is a strong sequence similarity to bacterial and yeast photolyases, with a close relationship to enzymes with a deazaflavin chromophor. The plant photolyase is shown to be functional in Escherichia coli which also indicates conservation of photolyases during evolution. It is demonstrated that photolyase expression in plants is light induced, thus providing good evidence for the adaptation of plants to their environment in order to diminish the harmful effects of sunlight.