Previous studies have shown that the protease-activated receptor 2 is involved in skin pigmentation through increased phagocytosis of melanosomes by keratinocytes. Ultraviolet irradiation is a potent stimulus for melanosome transfer. We show that protease-activated receptor 2 expression in human skin is upregulated by ultraviolet irradiation. Subjects with skin type I, II, or III were exposed to two or three minimal erythema doses of irradiation from a solar simulator. Biopsies were taken from nonexposed and irradiated skin 24 and 96 h after irradiation and protease-activated receptor 2 expression was detected using immunohistochemical staining. In nonirradiated skin, protease-activated receptor 2 expression was confined to keratinocytes in the lower one-third of the epidermis. After ultraviolet irradiation protease-activated receptor 2 expression was observed in keratinocytes in the upper two-thirds of the epidermis or the entire epidermis at both time points studied. Subjects with skin type I showed delayed upregulation of protease-activated receptor 2 expression, however, compared with subjects with skin types II and III. Irradiated cultured human keratinocytes showed upregulation in protease-activated receptor 2 expression as determined by immunofluorescence microscopy and Western blotting. Cell culture supernatants from irradiated keratinocytes also exhibited a dose-dependent increase in protease-activated receptor-2 cleavage activity. These results suggest an important role for protease-activated receptor-2 in pigmentation in vivo. Differences in protease-activated receptor 2 regulation in type I skin compared with skin types II and III suggest a potential mechanism for differences in tanning in subjects with different skin types.