To optimize their growth and survival, plants perceive and respond to ultraviolet-B ( UV-B) radiation. However, neither the molecular identity of the UV-B photoreceptor nor the photoperception mechanism is known. Here we show that dimers of the UVR8 protein perceive UV-B, probably by a tryptophan-based mechanism. Absorption of UV-B induces instant monomerization of the photoreceptor and interaction with COP1, the central regulator of light signaling. Thereby this signaling cascade controlled by UVR8 mediates UV-B photomorphogenic responses securing plant acclimation and thus promotes survival in sunlight.