Protecting the skin from sun exposure

January 27, 2014
This is a proposed model for the molecular pathway that allows human skin to detect and respond to the UV radiation in sunlight. Understanding this pathway is critical to developing better methods of skin protection. Credit: Bellono et al., 2014

The ultraviolet radiation (UVR) present in sunlight is the most common environmental carcinogen, and long-term exposure to UVR can lead to skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. To develop better methods of protection from the sun, we need to understand how the human skin detects and responds to UVR. A study in The Journal of General Physiology provides new insight into the molecular pathway underlying this process.

Skin cells called melanocytes respond to UVR by increasing the skin's pigmentation, a protective mechanism otherwise known as tanning. But the exact details of the early stages of the response to UVR are poorly understood. Now, researchers from Brown University have identified key elements of the UVR-activated pathway in skin.

The researchers identified a specific protein involved in mediating the skin's response to UVR as well as some downstream elements in the pathway. Intriguingly, their data suggest that, in melanocytes responding to UVR, the signal transduction cascade (the process by which an external stimulus leads to a response inside a cell) resembles a light-activated pathway in the eye.

More research is needed to identify other key players in this newly characterized UVR response pathway. As these remaining gaps are filled, researchers can use the information to develop better methods for protecting the human skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure.

Explore further: Human skin begins tanning in seconds, and here's how

More information: Bellono, N.W., et al. 2014. J. Gen. Physiol. DOI: 10.1085/jgp.201311094

Related Stories

Human skin begins tanning in seconds, and here's how

November 3, 2011

We all know that human skin tans after days spent in the sun. That relatively slow process has known links to ultraviolet (and specifically UVB) exposure, which leads to tanning only after it damages the DNA of skin cells. ...

Recommended for you

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

Anti-aging tricks from dietary supplement seen in mice

August 21, 2015

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it. Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found that the dietary supplement ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.