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Arch Dermatol Res. 1982;272(3-4):215-28.

Redistribution of melanosomal complexes within keratinocytes following UV-A irradiation: a possible mechanism for cutaneous darkening in man.


In contrast to other ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths, UV-A can induce long-term or "true" pigmentation rapidly with little or no latency. The response cannot be clearly separated from immediate pigment darkening and is too rapid in onset to be explained by neomelanogenesis. In order to investigate possible mechanisms for this phenomenon, UV-irradiated skin was examined microscopically and ultrastructurally 18 h postirradiation. Specimens from skin sites tanned by exposure to melanogenic doses of UV-A showed a paradoxical reduction in the degree of basal melanization by light microscopy compared to unirradiated skin. Ultrastructurally, there was migration and dispersion of packaged melanosomes within keratinocytes from their normal, aggregated location around the nucleus towards the periphery of the cell. These changes were not observed in specimens exposed to melanogenic doses of UV-B. We propose that UV-A wavelengths can selectively cause redistribution of melanin-laden organelles within human keratinocytes in vivo and that this phenomenon accounts for the visually observed hyperpigmentation that develops soon after single exposures to these wavelengths. Dispersion of melanosomal complexes may be another mechanism by which UV-radiation (UVR) can induce tanning in human skin.

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