We have examined the role of the nucleus and the membrane in the activation of nuclear factor (NF)-KB by oxidant stress generated via the UVA (320–380nm) component of solar radiation. Nuclear extracts from human skin fibroblasts that had been irradiated with UVA at doses that caused little DNA damage contained activated NF-KB that bound to its recognition sequence in DNA. The UVA radiation-dependent activation of NF-KB in enucleated cells confirmed that the nucleus was not involved. On the other hand, UVA radiation-dependent activation of NF-KB appeared to be correlated with membrane damage, and activation could be prevented by a-tocopherol and butylated hydroxytol-uene, agents that inhibited UVA radiation-dependent peroxidation of cell membrane lipids. The activation of NF-KB by the DNA damaging agents UVC (200–290nm) and UVB (290–320nm) radiation also only occurred at doses where significant membrane damage was induced, and, overall, activation was not correlated with the relative levels of DNA damage induced by UVC/UVB and UVA radiations. We conclude that the oxidative modification of membrane components may be an important factor to consider in the UV radiation-dependent activation of NF-KB over all wavelength ranges examined.