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Arch Dermatol Res. 2003 Nov;295(6):229-35. Epub 2003 Sep 16.

Contact allergy to oak moss: search for sensitizing molecules using combined bioassay-guided chemical fractionation, GC-MS, and structure-activity relationship analysis.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Dermatochimie, Clinique Dermatologique, CHU, 1, Place de l'Hôpital, 67091 Strasbourg, France.


In addition to pure synthetic fragrance materials several natural extracts are still in use in the perfume industry. Among them oak moss absolute, prepared from the lichen Evernia prunastri (L.) Arch., is considered a major contact sensitizer and is therefore included in the fragrance mix used for diagnosing perfume allergy. The process of preparing oak moss absolute has changed during recent years and, even though several potential sensitizers have been identified from former benzene extracts, its present constituents and their allergenic status are not clear. In the study reported here, we applied a method developed for the identification of contact allergens present in natural complex mixtures to oak moss absolute. The method is based on the combination of bioassay-guided chemical fractionation, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis and structure-activity relationship studies. Our first results showed that atranol and chloroatranol, formed by transesterification and decarboxylation of the lichen depsides, atranorin and chloroatranorin, during the preparation of oak moss absolute, are strong elicitants in most patients sensitized to oak moss. Methyl-beta-orcinol carboxylate, a depside degradation product and the most important monoaryl derivative of oak moss from an olfactory standpoint, was also found to elicit a reaction in most patients.

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