Mechanisms involved in suppression of the elicitation of immune responses by ultraviolet light

Dat Xuan Nghiem, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The ultraviolet radiation (UVR) present in sunlight is the primary cause of nonmelanoma skin cancer and has been implicated in the development of cutaneous malignant melanoma. Ultraviolet radiation also suppresses the immune response. In the majority of studies investigating the mechanisms regulating UV-induced immune suppression, UV is used to suppress the induction of immune responses. Equally important, is the ability of UVR to suppress established immune responses, such as the recall reaction in humans, which protects against microbial infections. We established a murine model to help elucidate the immunological mechanisms governing UV-induced suppression of the elicitation of immune responses. 80 kJ/m2 of UVR nine days after sensitization consistently suppressed the elicitation of delayed type hypersensitivity reaction to C. albicans . We found ultraviolet A (320±400 nm) radiation was as effective as solar-simulated ultraviolet A + B (290±400 nm) in suppressing the elicitation of an established immune response. The mechanisms involved in UV-induced suppression of the induction & elicitation of the immune response are similar. For example, mice irradiated with UV after immunization generated antigen-specific T suppressor cells. Injection of monoclonal antibodies to IL-10 or recombinant IL-12 immediately after exposure to UVR blocked immune suppression. Liposomes containing bacteriophage T4N5 to the skin of mice also prevented immune suppression, demonstrating an essential role for ultraviolet-induced DNA damage in the suppression of established immune reactions. In addition to damaging DNA, UV initiates immune suppression through the isomerization of urocanic acid in the epidermis. Here we provide evidence that cis-UCA induces systemic immunosuppression via the serotonin (5-hydroxyyryptamine; 5-HT) receptor. Biochemical and immunological analysis indicate that cis-UCA binds to, and activates, the serotonin receptor. Moreover, serotonin specific antibodies block UV- and/or cis-UCA-induced immune suppression. Our findings identify cis-UCA as novel serotonin receptor ligand and indicate that serotonin receptor engagement can activate immune suppression. Cumulatively, our data suggest that similar immune regulatory mechanisms are activated regardless of whether we expose mice to solar-simulated UV (UVA + UVB) radiation or UVA only, and that ultraviolet radiation activates similar immunologic pathways to suppress the induction or the elicitation of the immune response.

Subject Area

Immunology|Cellular biology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Nghiem, Dat Xuan, "Mechanisms involved in suppression of the elicitation of immune responses by ultraviolet light" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3195265.