Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation regulates UV-responsive genes, including matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Moreover, UV-induced MMPs cause connective tissue damage and the skin to become wrinkled and aged.

Here, we investigated the effect of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a dietary omega-3 fatty acid, on UV-induced MMP-1 expression in human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs).

We found that UV radiation increases MMP-1 expression and that this is mediated by p44 and p42 MAP kinase (ERK) and Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation but not by p38 activation.
Pretreatment of HDFs with EPA inhibited UV-induced MMP-1 expression in a dose-dependent manner and also inhibited the UV-induced activation of ERK and JNK by inhibiting ERK kinase (MEK1) and SAPK/ERK kinase 1 (SEK1) activation, respectively.
Moreover, inhibition of ERK and JNK by EPA resulted in the decrease of c-Fos expression and c-Jun phosphorylation/expression induced by UV, respectively, which led to the inhibition of UV-induced activator protein-1 DNA binding activity.

This inhibitory effect of EPA on MMP-1 was not mediated by an antioxidant effect. We also found that EPA inhibited 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate- or tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced MMP-1 expression in HDFs and UV-induced MMP-1 expression in HaCaT cells.

In conclusion, our results demonstrate that EPA can inhibit UV-induced MMP-1 expression by inhibiting the MEK1/ERK/c-Fos and SEK1/JNK/c-Jun pathways.

Therefore, EPA is a potential agent for the prevention and treatment of skin aging.