Melanocytes respond to UVR not only by producing melanin, but also by proliferating. This is essentially a protective response. We have studied the melanocyte proliferative response after a single UVR exposure to neonatal mice. At 3 days post-UVR in wild-type neonates we observed a marked melanocyte activation not seen in adults. Melanocytes migrated to the epidermal basal layer, their numbers peaking at 3-5 days after UVR then diminishing. They appeared to emanate from the hair follicle, migrating to the epidermis via the outer root sheath. In melanoma-prone mice with melanocyte-specific overexpression of Hras(G12V), basal layer melanocytes were increased in size and dendricity compared to UVR-treated wild-type mice. Melanocytes in mice carrying a pRb pathway cell-cycle defect (oncogenic Cdk4(R24C)) did not show an enhanced response to UVR such as those carrying Hras(G12V). The exquisite sensitivity to UVR-induced proliferation and migration that characterizes neonatal mouse melanocytes may partly explain the utility of this form of exposure for inducing melanoma in mice that carry oncogenic mutations.