Plants are unique in the obligatory nature of their exposure to sunlight and consequently to ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. However, our understanding of plant DNA repair processes lags far behind the current knowledge of repair mechanisms in microbes, yeast and mammals, especially concerning the universally conserved and versatile dark repair pathway called nucleotide excision repair (NER). Here we report the isolation and functional characterization of Arabidopsis thaliana AtRAD1, which encodes the plant homologue of Saccharomyces cerevisiae RAD1, Schizosaccharomyces pombe RAD16 and human XPF, endonucleolytic enzymes involved in DNA repair and recombination processes. Our results indicate that AtRAD1 is involved in the excision of UV-induced damages, and allow us to assign, for the first time in plants, the dark repair of such DNA lesions to NER. The low efficiency of this repair mechanism, coupled to the fact that AtRAD1 is ubiquitously expressed including tissues that are not accessible to UV light, suggests that plant NER has other roles. Possible ‘UV-independent’ functions of NER are discussed with respect to features that are particular to plants.