European Journal of Dermatology


DNA-protection by sunscreens: p53-immunostaining Volume 7, issue 4, June 1997


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Dermatology Department University Hospital Maastricht, Po Box 5800, 6202 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands.
  • Key words: p53, UV.
  • Page(s) : 259-62
  • Published in: 2000

p53 plays an important role in regulating the cell-cycle after exposure to DNA-damaging agents. It becomes immunocytochemically detectable in the epidermis and superficial dermal fibroblasts of normal adult human skin after exposure to doses of UV irradiation that induce mild sunburn. We investigated the DNA-protective qualities of sunscreens (Zwitsal SPF 10 and Zwitsal SPF 20) as measured by p53 expression in skin biopsies, one day after a 1.5 h exposure to sunlight. In all 25 healthy volunteers (skin types 1 to 3), a dramatic increase in p53 expression was found in the basal as well as the suprabasal cell compartment of unprotected skin. Erythema was seen in 19 of the 25 volunteers. The remaining six cases showed p53 expression without visible erythema. Therefore p53-expression might be a more sensitive parameter for UV-induced skin damage. Both sunscreens provided UV-protection as measured by the erythemal response, and as measured by the p53 response: a significantly lower fraction of cells was p53 positive as compared to the unprotected, UV-irradiated skin. Also, the p53 expression levels were considerably lower in the sunscreen protected cells. We conclude that p53 expression is a sensitive parameter for the detection of UV-induced damage in the skin, and suggest that it may be used to indicate the effectiveness of sunscreens (besides the SPF).