Recent data suggest that dendritic cells (DC) are the critical passenger leukocytes in allograft rejection. Moreover, previous studies suggest that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) abrogates many in vivo and in vitro immune responses in which DC function as potent accessory cells (AC); however, the mechanism(s) underlying the suppressive effect of UVR on these responses is unclear. To address this mechanism, the hypothesis was tested that loss of DC viability (hence function) accounts for the suppressive effect of UVR on these responses. To this end, in vitro effects of UVR on murine splenic DC viability were addressed using two types of UVR (ultraviolet B [UVB] and ultraviolet C [UVC]) over a UVR dose range of 0-864 J/m2. DC viability was exquisitely sensitive to UVR when compared with other AC populations and UVC was 4-fold more effective in decreasing DC viability than UVB when doses of equal energy were compared. It was found that both UVR types induced marked decreases in DC viability beginning 4-6 hr post-UVR-treatment, that UVR- and non-UVR-induced death were temperature-dependent, and that decreases in DC viability induced by UVR were compatible with interphase death. Our finding indicate that DC are sensitive to temperature changes and exquisitely sensitive to UVR, and suggest that UVR-induced abrogation of murine immune responses is likely attributable to UVR-induced DC death.