Role of skin surface lipids in UV-induced epidermal cell changes


Ultraviolet irradiation is capable of affecting skin surface lipids, especially squalene and cholesterol, both in vitro and in vivo, with generation of active lipoperoxides. The photodecomposition of the skin lipid component was carefully evaluated by capillary gas-chromatography. The effects of UV-induced lipoperoxides on human keratinocytes in culture and on guinea pig ear slices were compared with those of synthetic lipoperoxides, i.e. cumene hydroperoxide and 13-hydroperoxylinoleate. A time- and dose-dependent effect on protein synthesis and mitotic activity was observed. In cell culture low concentrations (0.05–5 Μg/ml) of peroxidated squalene and synthetic lipoperoxides stimulated the incorporation of radiolabelled thymidine and phenylalanine, while higher concentrations (>10 Μg/ml), or longer periods of treatment, induced cellular damage. In guinea pig ear slices, the lipoperoxides (5–50 Μg/ml) increased aminoacid incorporation and the number of epidermal pigment cells; higher concentrations (>100 Μg/ml) caused a derangement of epidermal structure. The results suggest that UV irradiation of skin generates lipoperoxides from the surface lipids which, in vitro, are capable of producing a number of changes in epidermal cells.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Black AK, Fincham N, Greaves MW, Hensby CN (1980) Time course changes in levels of arachidonic acid and prostaglandins D2, E2, F2a in human skin following ultraviolet B irradiation. Br J Clin Pharmacol 10:453–456

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Chan CC, Duhamel L, Ford-Hutchinson A (1985) Leukotriene B4 and 12 hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid stimulate epidermal proliferation in vivo in guinea pig. J Invest Dermatol 85:333–334

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Danno K, Horio T, Takigawa M, Imamura S (1984) Role of oxygen intermediates in UV-induced epidermal cell injury. J Invest Dermatol 83:166–168

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    De Leo VA, Horlic H, Hanson D, Eisinger M, Halber LC (1984) Ultraviolet radiation induces changes in membrane metabolism of human keratinocytes in culture. J Invest Dermatol 83:323–326

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    De Luca C, Fanfoni GB, Picardo M, Nazzaro-Porro M, Passi S (1989) The skin surface lipids of man compared with those of other different primates. J Invest Dermatol 92:473

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Farr PM, Diffey BL (1985) The erythemal response of human skin to ultraviolet radiation. Br J Dermatol 113:65–70

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Horio T, Okamoto H (1987) Oxygen intermediates are involved in ultraviolet radiation-induced damage of Langerhans cells. J Invest Dermatol 88:699–702

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Kaidbey KH, Kligman AM (1979) The acute effects of long wave ultraviolet radiation on human skin. J Invest Dermatol 72:253–256

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Kragballe K, Fallon JD (1986) Increased aggregation and arachidonic acid transformation by psoriatic platelets: evidence that platelet-derived 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid increases keratinocyte DNA synthesis. Arch Dermatol Res 278:449–453

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Kragballe K, Desjarlais L, Voorhees JJ (1985) Leukotrienes B4, C4 and D4 stimulate DNA synthesis in cultured human epidermal keratinocytes. Br J Dermatol 113:43–52

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Lowe NJ, Stoughton RB (1977) Effects of topical prostaglandin E2 analogue on normal hairless mouse epidermal DNA synthesis. J Invest Dermatol 68:134–137

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Mansur C, Gordon P, Ray S, Holick M, Gilchrest B (1988) Vitamin D, its precursors and metabolites do not affect melanization of cultured human melanocytes. J Invest Dermatol 91:16–21

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Miyachi Y, Horio T, Inamura S (1983) Sunburn cell formation is prevented by scavenging oxygen intermediates. Clin Exp Dermatol 8:305–310

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Morelli JG, Yohn JJ, Bradley Lyons M, Murphy RC, Norris DA (1989) Leukotrienes C4 and D4 as potent mitogens for cultured human neonatal melanocytes. J Invest Dermatol 93:719–722

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Motoyoshi K (1983) Enhanced comedo formation in rabbit ear skin by squalene and oleic acid peroxides. Br J Dermatol 109:191–198

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Nazzaro-Porro M, Passi S, Boniforti L, Belsito F (1979) Effects of aging on fatty acids in skin surface lipids. J Invest Dermatol 73:112–121

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Nazzaro-Porro M, Passi S, Picarcdo M, Mercantini R, Breathnach A (1986) Lipoxygenase activity of Pityrosporum in vitro and in vivo. J Invest Dermatol 87:108–112

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Nicolaides N (1976) Skin lipids: the biochemical uniqueness. Science 186:19–23

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Noonan FP, De Fabo E, Morrison H (1988) Cis-urocanic acid a product formed by ultraviolet B irradiation of the skin initiates an antigen presentation defect in splenic dendritic cells. J Invest Dermatol 90:92–99

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Nordlund JJ (1983) Chemical agents which mimic the effects of ultraviolet radiation on the epidermis: a possible role for oxidation of arachidonic acid on expression of surface marker on epidermal cells. In: Parish JA (ed) The effects of ultraviolet radiation on the immune system. Johnson & Johnson Baby Products, Albuquerque, NM, USA, pp 161–180

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Nordlund JJ, Ackles AE, Traynor FF (1981) The proliferative and toxic effects of ultraviolet light and inflammation on epidermal pigment cells. J Invest Dermatol 77:361–368

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Nordlund JJ, Collins CE, Rheins LA (1986) PGE2 but not MSH stimulates the proliferation of melanocytes in murine epidermis. J Invest Dermatol 86:433–437

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Ohkido M, Yoshino K, Matsno I (1980) Lipid peroxides of human skin. In: Bernstein JA, Seiji M (eds) Current problems in dermatology. Biochemistry of normal and abnormal epidermal differentiation. Karger, Basel, pp 261–278

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Ohsawa K, Watanabe T, Matsukawa R, Yoshimura Y, Imaeda K (1984) The possible role of squalene and its peroxide of the sebum in the occurrence of sunburn and protection from the damage caused by UV irradiation. J Toxicol Sci 9:151–159

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    O'Keef E, Chiu ML (1989) Stimulation of thymidine incorporation in keratinocytes by insulin, epidermal growth factor and placental extract: comparison with cell number to assess growth. J Invest Dermatol 90:2–7

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Parrish JA (1983) Responses of skin to visible and ultraviolet radiation. In: Goldsmith LA (ed) Biochemistry and physiology of the skin. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 713–733

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Parrish JA (1983) Photobiology and immunology. In: Parrish JA (ed) The effect of ultraviolet radiation on the immune system. Johnson and Johnson, New Brunswick, pp 3–20

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Picardo M, Zompetta C, De Luca C, Cannistraci C, Cristaudo A, Faggioni A, Santucci B (1990) Nickel keratinocytes interaction: a role in sensitization. Br J Dermatol 122:729–735

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Rheinwald JG, Green H (1977) Epidermal growth factor and the multiplication of cultured human epidermal keratinocytes. Nature 265:421–424

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Ruzicka T, Walter JF, Printz MP (1983) Changes in arachidonic acid metabolism in UV irradiated hairless mouse skin. J Invest Dermatol 81:300–303

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Saint-Leger D, Bague A, Cohen E, Chivot M (1986) The possible role of squalene in the pathogenesis of acne. In vitro studies. Br J Dermatol 114:535–542

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Saint-Leger D, Bague A, Cohen E, Chivot M (1986) The possible role of squalene in the pathogenesis of acne. In vivo studies. Br J Dermatol 114:543–548

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Tomita Y, Torinuki W, Tagami H (1988) Stimulation of human melanocytes by vitamin D3 possibly mediates skin pigmentation after sun exposure. J Invest Dermatol 90:882–884

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Vogel (1981) Textbook of practical organic chemistry, 4th edn. Longman, London New York, pp 330–332

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. Picardo.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Picardo, M., Zompetta, C., De Luca, C. et al. Role of skin surface lipids in UV-induced epidermal cell changes. Arch Dermatol Res 283, 191–197 (1991).

Download citation

Key words

  • Lipoperoxidation
  • UV radiation
  • Skin surface
  • Lipids
  • Squalene