In order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the molecular events regulating cutaneous photodamage of intact human epidermis, suction blister roofs obtained after a single dose of in vivo ultraviolet (UV)B exposure were used for microarray profiling. We found a changed expression of 619 genes. Half of the UVB-regulated genes had returned to pre-exposure baseline levels at 72 h, underscoring the transient character of the molecular cutaneous UVB response. Of special interest was our finding that several of the central p53 target genes remained unaffected following UVB exposure in spite of p53 protein accumulation. We next compared the in vivo expression profiles of epidermal sheets to that of cultured human epidermal keratinocytes exposed to UVB in vitro. We found 1931 genes that differed in their expression profiles between the two groups. The expression profile in intact epidemis was geared mainly towards DNA repair, whereas cultured keratinocytes responded predominantly by activating genes associated with cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis. These differences in expression profiles might reflect differences between mature differentiating keratinocytes in the suprabasal epidermal layers versus exponentially proliferating keratinocytes in cell culture. Our findings show that extreme care should be taken when extrapolating from findings based on keratinocyte cultures to changes in intact epidermis.