In addition to being the primary cause of skin cancer, UV radiation is immune suppressive and there appears to be a link between the ability of UV to suppress the immune response and induce skin cancer. Cytokines made by UV-irradlated keratinocytes play an essential role in activating immune suppression. In particular, we have found that keratinocyte-derlved interleukin (IL)-10 is responsible for the systemic impairment of antigenpresenting cell function and the UV-induced suppression of delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH). Antigen presentation by splenic adherent cells isolated from UV-irradiated mice to T helper-1 type T (Th1) cells is suppressed, whereas antigen presentation to T helper-2 type T (Th2) cells is enhanced. The enhanced antigen presentation to Th2 cells and the impaired presentation to Th1 cells can be reversed in vivo by injecting the UV-irradiated mice with monoclonal anti-IL-10 antibody. Furthermore, immune suppression can be transferred from UV-irradiated mice to normal recipients by adoptive transfer of T cells. Injecting the recipient mice with anti-IL-4 or anti-IL-10 prevents the transfer of immune suppression, suggesting the suppressor cells are Th2 cells. In addition, injecting UV-irradiated mice with IL-12, a cytokine that has been shown to be the primary inducer of Th1 cells, and one that prevents the differentiation of Th2 cells in vivo, reverses UV-induced immune suppression. These findings support the hypothesis that UV exposure activates IL-10 secretion, which depresses the function of Th1 cells, while enhancing the activity of Th2 cells.