Immunology and cell biology

Neonatal exposure to UVR alters skin immune system development, and suppresses immunity in adulthood.

PMID 21243005


Neonates have a developing immune response, with a predisposition towards induction of tolerance. As the immune system develops, immunity rather than tolerance is induced, with this development of immunity occurring in response to external factors such as the environment. As ultraviolet radiation (UVR) suppresses immunity, it is likely that the effect of UVR on the neonatal immune system would be augmentation of the suppressive response. In support, childhood exposure to UVR has been linked with an increased incidence of melanoma; consistent with an increase in suppression. To address this, phenotypic and functional immune system studies were undertaken at 8 weeks after one single exposure of solar-simulated UVR to mice, when mice had reached adulthood. Subtle changes were observed in cell populations resident in the skin-draining lymph nodes (LNs) and there also appeared to be a subtle, but not statistically significant, increase in the production of interleukin-10 and interferon-γ. Importantly, these changes also corresponded with significant suppression of the contact hypersensitivity response in irradiated mice compared with their control counterparts. This suppression was apparent when antigen sensitisation occurred during the neonatal or adult period, and thus did not appear to be analogous to UVR-induced suppression in adults. Although the percentage of T regulatory cells was increased in the skin-draining LNs, they were induced in a different manner to those induced following adult UVR exposure, with no increase in function on a per-cell basis. It therefore appears that one single neonatal exposure to UVR alters development of the immune system, leading to long-term implications for induction of immunity.