Solar UVB (290-320 nm) and particularly UVA (320-380 nm) radiations have a capacity to generate reactive chemical species, including free radicals, in cells. These intermediates have been shown to be involved in various biological effects in cultured human skin cells (e.g. cell death) and skin (e.g. erythema). Endogenous glutathione is a critical molecule in protection against the cytotoxic effects of both wavelength ranges. Although there is evidence from cellular studies for the involvement of an oxidative component of UVC/UVB radiations in activation of several genes, the doses used are generally extremely cytotoxic and could cause aberrant signalling. Genes activated by sublethal doses of UVA radiations (e.g. haem oxygenase 1 and the CL100 phosphatase) are clearly redox regulated. The strong induction of haem oxygenase 1 in human fibroblasts has been implicated in an adaptive response to oxidative membrane damage that involves increased synthesis of the iron storage protein, ferritin.

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Author notes

The Biochemical Society's Annual Symposium, Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress: Environment, Drugs and Food Additives, was held at the University of Sussex in December 1994