UV radiation is among the most prevalent stressors in humans and diurnal rodents, exerting direct and indirect DNA damage, free-radical production, and interaction with specific chromophores that affects numerous biological processes. In addition to its panoply of effects, UVB (290-320 nm) radiation can specifically affect various local neuroendocrine activities by stimulating the expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), urocortin, proopiomelanocortin (POMC), and POMC-derived peptides. Although very little is known about the interplay between the central hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the skin HPA axis analog, in the current issue Skobowiat and Slominski propose a novel mechanism by which exposure to UVB activates a local HPA axis in skin, which in turn activates the central HPA axis, with the requirement of a functional pituitary gland. This is the first evidence of the local HPA axis in skin contributing to the central neuroendocrine response. This raises intriguing possibilities regarding how local production of cortisol and other HPA axis molecules in skin influence overall systemic levels of cortisol and help regulate local and central HPA axes in the context of homeostasis, skin injury, and inflammatory skin disorders.
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