In response to DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, bacteria deploy the SOS response in order to limit cell death. This bacterial SOS response is characterized by an increase in the recA gene that transactivates expression of multiple DNA repair genes. The current series of experiments demonstrate that a mammalian organ system (the cochlea) that is not evolutionarily conditioned to UV radiation can elicit SOS responses that are reminiscent of that of bacteria. This mammalian SOS response is characterized by an increase in the p53 gene with activation of multiple DNA repair genes that harbor p53 response elements in their promoters. Furthermore, the experimental results provide support for the notion of a convergent trigger paradox, where independent SOS triggers facilitate disparate physiologic sequelae (loss vs. recovery of function). Therefore, it is proposed that the mammalian SOS response is multifunctional and manipulation of this endogenous response could be exploited in future biomedical interventions.