Exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation induces inflammation and photocarcinogenesis in mammalian skin. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a representative ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, has been reported to possess anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive properties. In the present study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the inhibitory effects of DHA on UVB-induced inflammation in mouse skin. Our study revealed that topical application of DHA prior to UVB irradiation attenuated the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and NAD(P)H:oxidase-4 (NOX-4) in hairless mouse skin. DHA pretreatment also attenuated UVB-induced DNA binding of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) through the inhibition of phosphorylation of IκB kinase-α/β, phosphorylation and degradation of IκBα and nuclear translocation of p50 and p65. In addition, UVB-induced phosphorylation of p65 at the serine 276 residue was significantly inhibited by topical application of DHA. Irradiation with UVB induced phosphorylation of mitogen and stress-activated kinase-1 (MSK1), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, and all these events were attenuated by pretreatment with DHA. Blocking ERK and p38 MAP kinase signaling by U0126 and SB203580, respectively, diminished MSK1 phosphorylation in UVB-irradiated mouse skin. Pretreatment with H-89, a pharmacological inhibitor of MSK1, abrogated UVB-induced activation of NF-κB and the expression of COX-2 and NOX-4 in mouse skin. In conclusion, topically applied DHA inhibits the UVB-induced activation of NF-κB and the expression of COX-2 and NOX-4 by blocking the phosphorylation of MSK1, a kinase downstream of ERK and p38 MAP kinase, in hairless mouse skin.