Abstract: Exposure of skin to solar irradiation generates reactive oxygen species that damage DNA, membranes, mitochondria and proteins. To protect against such damage, skin cells have evolved antioxidant enzymes including glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), copper and zinc-dependent superoxide dismutase (SOD1), the mitochondrial manganese-dependent superoxide dismutase (SOD2), and catalase. This report examines the effect of a single low or moderate dose exposure to solar-simulating combined UVB and UVA irradiation on the gene expression and activities of these antioxidant enzymes in cultured normal human fibroblasts. We find that both doses initially decrease GSH-Px, SOD2 and catalase activities, but within 5 days after irradiation the activities of the enzymes return to pre-irradiation level (catalase) or are induced slightly (SOD1, GSH-Px) or substantially (SOD2) above the basal level. For SOD1, SOD2 and catalase, the higher dose also detectably modulates the mRNA level of these enzymes. Our results indicate that the effects of a single physiologic solar simulated irradiation dose persist for at least several days and suggest that skin cells prepare for subsequent exposure to damaging irradiation by upregulating this antioxidant defense system, in particular the mitochondrial SOD2. Our findings are consistent with the existence of a broad-based SOS-like response in irradiated human skin.