Ultraviolet radiation inhibits human natural killer activity and lymphocyte proliferation

B. Schacter, M. M. Lederman, M. J. LeVine, J. J. Ellner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) has been implicated in the predisposition to certain neoplasms and leads to viral reactivation. Natural killer (NK) activity may play a role in immunosurveillance and response to certain viral infections. We have evaluated the sensitivity to UVR of human NK activity, a nonproliferative function, and the proliferative response to the mitogen phytohemagglutinin (PHA). In vitro exposure to UVR resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of NK activity and response to PHA. The wavelength dependence for UVR inhibition of NK activity and of the PHA response of lymphocytes were virtually superimposable at wavelengths at or above 300 nm, but NK activity was less sensitive to UVR at 260 and 280 nm. Maximal sensitivity for both functions was found at 260 nm, consistent with a nucleic acid chromophore mediating UVR inhibition of both activities. The DNA directed drugs mitomycin C, acridine orange, and adriamycin at concentrations that inhibit proliferation are poor inhibitors of NK activity. These results suggest that UVR inhibition of NK activity as well as proliferation may be mediated by a nucleic acid chromophore. NK activity, however, is less sensitive to direct damage of DNA by alkylation, distortion, or oxidation. At 300 nm, the amount of radiation required to inhibit NK activity and proliferation is within the range penetrating to the dermis and capillaries during environmental exposure to sunlight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2484-2487
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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