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Pigment Cell Res. 2000 Apr;13(2):89-98.

Inhibition of UVR-induced tanning and immunosuppression by topical applications of vitamins C and E to the skin of hairless (hr/hr) mice.

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  • 1Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


Exposure of C3HBYB/Wq hairless (hr/hr) mice to ultra-violet radiation (UVR) for 15 days induced intense tanning of their dorsal skin. Small, dark freckles appeared first, gradually enlarging and coalescing as treatment progressed yielding a uniform tan. Histologically, the gross changes in skin color were matched initially by the appearance of scattered epidermal melanocytes that subsequently proliferated to form discrete, progressively expanding and abutting populations resulting in a uniform melanocyte network throughout the basal layer of the interfollicular epidermis. In contrast, when applied topically before each daily exposure to UVR, a cream or lotion vehicle containing both vitamins C and E (Vits C/E) inhibited UVR-induced erythema and tanning. Application of Vits C/E, both before and after irradiation, was no more effective in providing photoprotection than pre-treatment only. At the tissue level, UVR-induced proliferation and melanogenesis of melanocytes were reduced compared with irradiated controls. The density of individual melanocyte populations was reduced, as was the number of melanocyte populations achieving merger (confluence) with others. Confluence grades and cell counts, estimating the maximum density of melanocyte populations in UVR-Vits C/E-treated mice, were approximately two thirds those of UVR-vehicle-treated controls. However, tanning was only one fifth that of UVR-vehicle-treated controls, suggesting that melanogenesis was also inhibited. In addition to its inhibitory actions on irradiated melanocytes, Vits C/E also inhibited UVR-induced suppression of contact hypersensitivity (CHS) in haired (Hr/hr) and hr/hr mice of the C3HBYB/Wq strain. The common denominators for most, if not all, of the influences of topically-applied Vits C/E in muting the responses of the melanocyte and immune systems to UVR may stem from the vitamins' combined ability to suppress UVR-stimulated inflammation and its associated cascade of mediators.

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