Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) inhibit ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced inflammation and other inflammatory states, in vivo. We examined whether this may be mediated by modulation of interleukin (IL)-8, a chemokine pivotal to skin inflammation induced by UVB, in epidermal and dermal cells. We also explored the ability of n-3 PUFA to protect against tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha induction of IL-8, and assessed relative potencies of the principal dietary n-3 PUFA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pre-supplementation, both HaCaT keratinocyte and CCD922SK fibroblast cell lines showed dose-responses for UVB-induced IL-8 release (p<0.001), assessed 48 h post-irradiation. Cells were supplemented with > or =90% purified EPA, DHA, oleic acid (OA) or vehicle control, for 4.5 d. EPA and DHA supplements were bioavailable to keratinocytes and fibroblasts. In keratinocytes, EPA and DHA were shown to reduce basal secretion of IL-8 by 66% and 63%, respectively (p<0.05), and UVB-induced levels by 66% and 65% at 48 h after 100 mJ per cm2, respectively, (p<0.01). A similar pattern occurred in fibroblasts, whereas OA had no influence on IL-8 release in either cell line. In addition, TNF-alpha-induced IL-8 secretion by keratinocytes was reduced by 54% and 42%, respectively, by EPA and DHA (p<0.001). Hence both n-3 PUFA inhibit production of UVB- and TNF-alpha-induced IL-8 in skin cells; this may be important in the photoprotective and other anti-inflammatory effects conferred by these agents.