As part of a larger study on global climate change and ozone depletion we are investigating the effects of ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation on fishes. We conducted a number of experiments to explore the possible effects of UVB radiation on the immune response of juvenile rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. In one study, the fish developed sunburn and fungal infection on the dorsal skin after exposure to levels of UVB that simulated ambient solar UVB levels observed at mid-latitudes. In a separate study, UVB-exposed rainbow trout with surgically administered dorsal lesions developed fungal infection on the lesions and surrounding skin. Many of these fish subsequently died within a 9 day exposure period. Fish with surgical lesions, but not exposed to UVB radiation, did not develop fungal infection and did not die. In mammals, UVB-induced immunosuppression is thought to occur through the isomerization of urocanic acid or the formation of DNA pyrimidine dimers, or through some interaction between the two. We found a substance that appeared, upon HPLC detection, to be trans-urocanic acid in the skin of UVB-exposed and unexposed rainbow trout. Neurotransmitter stimulation of adrenoceptors may be involved in changes in pigmentation observed in UVB-exposed fishes. We measured adrenoceptors in skin membranes from rainbow trout exposed to UVB and found a decrease in cz2-adrenoceptors compared with fish not exposed to UVB. Results of our study indicate that prolonged exposure of juvenile rainbow trout to mid-latitude levels of solar UVB may play an important role in the initiation of certain disease outbreaks and may decrease survival of fish that have lesions on the dorsal skin.