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Summary

Background.  In previous studies, we made the unexpected finding that in mice, ultraviolet (UV)B irradiation of the eye increased the concentration of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in plasma, and systemically stimulated epidermal melanocytes.

Aims.  To compare the extent of the pigmentation induced by social and restraint stress (which activate the hippocampus–pituitary system) with that induced by UVB irradiation.

Methods.  DBA/2 and sham-operated or hypophysectomized DBA/2 mice were subjected to local UVB exposure using a sunlamp directed at the eye, and two types of stress (social and restraint) were imposed.

Results.  UVB irradiation of the eye or exposure to stress loading both increased the number of Dopa-positive melanocytes in the epidermis, and hypophysectomy strongly inhibited the UVB-induced and stress-induced stimulation of melanocytes. Irradiation of the eye caused a much greater increase in dopamine than did the stress load. Both UVB eye irradiation and stress increased the blood levels of α-MSH and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In addition, the increase in plasma α-MSH was greater in animals subjected to UVB eye irradiation than in those subjected to stress loading, whereas the reverse occurred for plasma ACTH. UVB irradiation to the eye and stress loading increased the expression of prohormone convertase (PC)1/3 and PC2 in the pituitary gland. The increase in expression of pituitary PC2 was greater in animals subjected to UVB eye irradiation than to stress, whereas no difference was seen between the two groups for the increase in PC1/3.

Conclusions.  UVB eye irradiation exerts a stronger effect on pigmentation than stress loading, and is related to increased levels of α-MSH and PC2.