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J Invest Dermatol. 1992 Feb;98(2):166-70.

Common pathogenetic pathways in allergic and irritant contact dermatitis.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Kiel, FRG.


Despite their different pathogeneses, allergic and irritant contact dermatitis show a remarkable similarity with respect to clinical appearance, histology, and immunohistology. To further analyze this apparent contradiction, our study was designed to meticulously compare cellular infiltrates in irritant and allergic patch-test reactions by immunostaining with a broad panel of monoclonal antibodies. For this purpose, skin biopsies from allergic and irritant patch-test reactions of similar inflammatory degree were obtained from the same probands. We found that after 72 h both types of reaction were characterized by an identical dermal infiltrate consisting mainly of memory T cells, many of which were activated, and macrophages. Dermal and epidermal Langerhans cell density and HLA--DR expression of keratinocytes were also virtually identical. Our results show that antigen recognition by specific memory T cells as well as irritants can finally induce the same pattern of inflammation, including activation of T cells obviously independent of exogenous antigen.

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