Cells respond to DNA damage by arresting cell cycle progression and activating several DNA repair mechanisms. These responses allow damaged DNA to be repaired efficiently, thus ensuring the maintenance of genetic integrity. In the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, DNA damage leads both to activation of checkpoints at the G1, S and G2 phases of the cell cycle and to a transcriptional response. The G1 and G2 checkpoints have been shown previously to be under the control of the RAD9 gene. We show here that RAD9 is also required for the transcriptional response to DNA damage. Northern blot analysis demonstrated that RAD9 controls the DNA damage-specific induction of a large 'regulon' of repair, replication and recombination genes. This induction is cell-cycle independent as it was observed in asynchronous cultures and cells blocked in G1 or G2/M. RAD9-dependent induction was also observed from isolated damage responsive promoter elements in a lacZ reporter-based plasmid assay. RAD9 cells deficient in the transcriptional response were more sensitive to DNA damage than wild-type cells, even after functional substitution of checkpoints, suggesting that this activation may have an important role in DNA repair. Our findings parallel observations with the Escherichia coli SOS system and suggest the existence of an analogous eukaryotic network coordinating the cellular responses to DNA damage.