It is well known that UV exposure of human skin induces DNA damage, and the cumulative effect of such repeated damage is an important contributor to the development of skin cancer. Here, we demonstrate UV dose- and time-dependent induction of DNA damage in the form of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPD) in skin cells following a single exposure of human skin to UV radiation. CPD cells were identified by an immunohistochemical technique using monoclonal antibodies to thymine dimers. The percentage of CPD cells was UV dose–dependent, even a suberythemal (0.5 minimal erythemal dose [MED]) dose resulted in detectable level of cells that contained pyrimidine dimers. Forty-eight hours after irradiation the percent of total epidermal cells positive for CPD ranged from 19 ± 8, 36 ± 10, 57 ± 12 and 80 ± 10, and total percent dermal cells positive for CPD ranged from 1 ± 1, 7 ± 3, 16 ± 3 and 20 ± 5, respectively, following 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 4.0 MED. CPD were also observed in deeper reticular dermis, which suggest the penetrating ability of UV radiation into the skin. The change in CPD cells from 0.5 to 240 h post-UV exposure in both epidermal and dermal compartments of the skin was also quantitated. CPD cells were observed in skin biopsies at early time points after UV exposure which remained elevated for 48 h, then declined significantly by 3 days post-UV. A close examination of the skin at and after 3 days following UV exposure indicates the significant removal of DNA damaged cells from the epidermis. Ten days after UV exposure the levels of CPD cells in both epidermis and dermis were not significantly different from that in unirradiated skin.
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Vol. 72 • No. 6