Solar ultraviolet (UV) A radiation is a well known trigger of signaling responses in human skin fibroblasts. One important consequence of this stress response is the increased expression of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1), which causes extracellular protein degradation and thereby contributes to photoaging of human skin. In the present study we identify the proteasome as an integral part of the UVA-induced, intracellular signaling cascade in human dermal fibroblasts. UVA-induced singlet oxygen formation was accompanied by protein oxidation, the cross-linking of oxidized proteins, and an inhibition of the proteasomal system. This proteasomal inhibition subsequently led to an accumulation of c-Jun and phosphorylated c-Jun and activation of activator protein-1, i.e. transcription factors known to control MMP-1 expression. Increased transcription factor activation was also observed if the proteasome was inhibited by cross-linked proteins or lactacystin, indicating a general mechanism. Most importantly, inhibition of the proteasome was of functional relevance for UVA-induced MMP-1 expression, because overexpression of the proteasome or the protein repair enzyme methionine sulfoxide reductase prevented the UVA-induced induction of MMP-1. These studies show that an environmentally relevant stimulus can trigger a signaling pathway, which links intracellular and extracellular protein degradation. They also identify the proteasome as an integral part of the UVA stress response.