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Toxicology. 2007 Mar 22;232(1-2):79-88. Epub 2006 Dec 17.

Adjuvant effects of inhaled mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate in BALB/cJ mice.

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  • 1Airway Allergy and Irritation Group, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø ParkallĂ© 105, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Phthalates, including di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), are widely used and have been linked with the development of wheezing and asthma. The main metabolite of DEHP, mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP), was investigated for adjuvant effects in a mouse inhalation model. BALB/cJ mice were exposed to aerosols of 0.03 or 0.4 mg/m(3) MEHP 5 days/week for 2 weeks and thereafter weekly for 12 weeks together with a low dose of ovalbumin (OVA) as a model allergen. Mice exposed to OVA alone or OVA+Al(OH)(3) served as negative and positive controls, respectively. Finally, all groups were exposed to a nebulized 1% OVA solution on 3 consecutive days to investigate the development of an inflammatory response. Serum, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, and draining lymph nodes were collected 24h later. In the OVA+Al(OH)(3) group, significantly increased levels of OVA-specific IgE and IgG1 in serum as well as of eosinophils in BAL fluid were observed. OVA-specific IgG1 production in both MEHP groups was significantly increased. OVA-specific IgE and IgG2a were not increased significantly. A dose-dependent increase in inflammatory cells was observed in BAL fluid, leading to significantly higher lymphocyte and eosinophil numbers in the OVA+0.4 mg/m(3) MEHP group. Ex vivo cytokine secretion by cultures of draining lymph nodes suggested a T(H)2 profile of MEHP. In conclusion, MEHP acted as a T(H)2 adjuvant after inhalation. However, it is suggested that the inflammation in the MEHP groups was primarily mediated by an IgG1-dependent mechanism. To address implications for humans, a margin-of-exposure was estimated based on the lack of significant effects on IgE production and inflammation after exposures to 0.03 mg/m(3) MEHP observed in the present study and estimated human exposure levels.

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