Ultraviolet radiation is capable of inducing numerous skin reactions. Considerable amounts of UVA radiation penetrate the epidermis and reach the microvascular endothelium of the papillary dermis. In order to investigate putative direct effects of UV radiation on endothelial cells, we studied adhesion molecule expression by immunostaining procedures and FACS analysis, following irradiation of normal human skin and cultured human dermal endothelial cells. Enhanced immunostaining for ICAM-1 and E-selectin was detected in biopsies taken after in vivo UVA and UVB irradiation, compared with non-irradiated control skin. On cultured human dermal endothelial cells, however, ICAM-1 and E-selectin were inducible by UVA but not UVB. The induction was dose-dependent, peaking at 20 J/cm2 for both adhesion molecules, and time-dependent, peaking after 6 and 24 h for E-selectin and ICAM-1, respectively. Expression of VCAM-1 and PECAM/EndoCAM/CD31 was unaffected by any UV-radiation modality. The functional integrity of irradiated cells was monitored by an exclusion assay of the fluorescent dye 7-AAD, and by staining for the cytoskeletal proteins actin and vimentin.

Our results demonstrate that dermal microvascular endothelial cells are a critical and direct target of UVA, and suggest they may play a pivotal role in UV-induced inflammatory skin conditions.