Effect of chronologic aging and ultraviolet irradiation on Langerhans cells in human epidermis

J Invest Dermatol. 1982 Aug;79(2):85-8. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12500031.


The effect of aging on epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) and on their response to a single ultraviolet (UV) exposure was studied in skin biopsy specimens of healthy adults, 4 aged 22-26 yr and 7 aged 62-86 yr. In unirradiated skin, old adults had fewer LC than young adults, 5.8 +/- 1.1 versus 10.0 +/- 0.8 (mean +/- SEM) per 3 mm wide cross-section (p = .015). Following irradiation with 3 times the minimal erythema dose, recognizable LC were absent in all but 2 subjects within 24 hr. However, LC number fell less rapidly in old adults and was almost unchanged at 4 hours (5.8 +/- 1.1 versus 5.0 +/- 1.2), while in young adults LC number decreased from 10.0 +/- 0.8 to 3.3 +/- 1.3 during the same period (p less than .05). Other changes noted in both young and old subjects following irradiation included cytoplasmic vacuolization, frequent apposition of LC to severely damaged keratinocytes, and the finding of LC in the basal layer of the epidermis rather than exclusively suprabasilarly as in control sections. These data demonstrate an age-associated loss of epidermal LC and slowing of LC response to UV irradiation. UV-induced LC changes appear qualitatively similar in young and old adults and include histological evidence of cellular damage, transient association of LC with damaged keratinocytes, and possible migration of LC from the irradiated epidermis within 24 hr.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Basement Membrane / cytology
  • Basement Membrane / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Langerhans Cells / radiation effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ultraviolet Rays*