We have examined the mechanism by which solar-simulated ultraviolet radiation (ssUV) suppresses memory immunity to nickel in allergic humans. In initial studies, we used inbred mice to determine the contribution of different wavebands to sunlight-induced immunosuppression. We found that low dose UVA can enhance memory, medium dose UVA (half the amount in one minimum erythemal dose of ssUV) is immunosuppressive, but higher doses protect from UVB. This is genetically dependent, as it is not observed in all mouse strains. UVA caused a similar dose-related change in recall immunity in humans. ssUV dose responses determined the limits of protection provided by sunscreens from immunosuppression in humans. Immune protection factors calculated from these data correlated with UVA protection, but not with sun protection factor, showing that in commercial sunscreens that provide good UVB protection, UVA protection limits prevention of immunosuppression. N(G)-monomethyl-l-arginine acetate (l-NMMA) was used to inhibit nitric oxide (NO) production and T4N5 liposomes containing T4 endonuclease V to enhance DNA repair. Sub-erythemal ssUV caused a dose-related local suppression of recall immunity to nickel in humans. l-NMMA and the liposomes protected the nickel reaction, suggesting that NO and DNA damage are mediators of UV-induced immunosuppression in humans.