Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) is an active nuclear protein involved in DNA replication, recombination and repair. PCNA is found throughout the basal layer in normal skin and in all layers of the epidermis in malignancy. This study evaluates PCNA's expression after acute and chronic UV-B irradiation. Skh-1 hairless mice exposed to 1.5 and 4.5 kJ/m2 of UV-B were sacrificed at 6, 12, 24, 48, 72 and 168 h. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed PCNA expression throughout the basal layer of untreated skin, with diminished expression at 6 h, indicative of immediate UV damage, and evidenced by the observable upregulation in pyrimidine dimer formation early on. Subsequently, PCNA immunoreactivity progressively increased, demonstrating an aberrant upward epidermal migratory pattern in association with chronic exposure. The 4.5 kJ/m2 group exhibited prolonged recovery in staining and also demonstrated this altered migratory pattern with chronic exposure. Progressive reactivation of PCNA expression occurs with repair. PCNA migration to upper layers of the epidermis indicates proliferation and possibly a subsequent increased malignant potential. We conclude that PCNA can serve as a marker of DNA repair and indirectly as an indicator of UV-B–induced damage, expression being time dependent and dose related. Specific immunoreactivity patterns and the observable atypia in keratinocytes are relevant in elucidating malignant potentiation.
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Vol. 80 • No. 3