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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Jun;120(6):915-22.

Ultraviolet a induces generation of squalene monohydroperoxide isomers in human sebum and skin surface lipids in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Dermatology and Institute of Pharmacy, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Erfurter Strasse 35, D-07740 Jena, Germany.


At the outermost surface of human skin, skin surface lipids are first-line targets of solar ultraviolet radiation. Therefore, we hypothesized that ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B irradiation induce photo-oxidation of skin surface lipids. To test this, sebum samples were collected from facial skin of 17 healthy volunteers, weighed, and immediately irradiated with either ultraviolet B or ultraviolet A. Squalene, the major sebum lipid, as well as photo-oxidation products were identified in sebum lipid extracts by high-performance liquid chromatography analysis. Upon ultraviolet A exposures squalene was depleted in a concentration-dependent manner, whereas an unidentified sebum lipid photo-oxidation product was detected. Using high-performance thin layer chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance, unidentified sebum lipid photo-oxidation product was identified as a mixture of squalene monohydroperoxide isomers. Squalene monohydroperoxide isomers purified from sebum were identical with squalene monohydroperoxide isomers synthesized by preparative photo-oxidation of squalene. Squalene monohydroperoxide isomers were formed even after small suberythematogenic doses of ultraviolet A (5 J per cm2). Whereas physiologic baseline levels of squalene monohydroperoxide isomers in human skin were only slightly above detection limits, squalene monohydroperoxide isomer levels were strongly increased by suberythematogenic doses of ultraviolet A both in vitro and in vivo. High-performance liquid chromatography results could be complemented by a straightforward thin layer chromatography method for rapid screening of lipid peroxide formation in human sebum/skin surface lipids. In conclusion, specific squalene monohydroperoxide isomers were identified as highly ultraviolet A sensitive skin surface lipid breakdown products that may serve as a marker for photo-oxidative stress in vitro and in vivo.

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