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Keywords:

  • urocanic acid;
  • dendritic cell

Exposure to UVB results in the isomerization of trans-urocanic acid (UCA), localized in the stratum corneum, to cis-UCA. Cis-UCA can mediate at least some of the immunosuppressive effects of UVB, though the mechanism of cis-UCA action remains incompletely defined. Alterations in Langerhans cells, and other dendritic antigen presenting cell populations in the skin, may contribute to the loss of skin immune function following UVB exposure. Hence, this study was designed to investigate whether cis-UCA directly can induce changes in the immunostimulatory capacity of dendritic cells (DC) and the development of DC from precursor cells. Murine DC were generated from C57BL/6 bone marrow (BM) using granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and were used as stimulator cells in mixed lymphocyte reactions (MLR) using BALB/c lymph node cells (LNC) as responders. The addition of cis- and trans-UCA at concentrations ranging from 0.1–500 μg/ml to the MLR did not affect proliferative responses. Cis- or trans-UCA (100 μg/ml) was added to GM-CSF stimulated mouse BM cells on day 0, day 3 or day 5 of culture, and the phenotype and allo-stimulatory function of the DC were analysed on day 7. Treatment with cis- or trans-UCA did not affect the numbers or the viability of cells in the BM cultures. In addition, the expression on DC of Iab, CD11c or the costimulatory molecules ICAM-1, B7-1, B7-2 and CD40 was not altered by the addition of cis-UCA to BM cultures. The inability of cis-UCA to alter the development of DC in vitro was confirmed by analysing the functional capacity of DC in MLR. DC generated in the presence of cis-UCA were equally efficient in the induction of allo-stimulation, when compared with control DC. These results suggest that cis-UCA does not exert its immunosuppressive activity through direct effects on DC. Such activity may be independent of DC, or alternatively, cis-UCA may influence DC function indirectly, through the induction of secondary mediators.