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Toxicol In Vitro. 2008 Mar;22(2):386-95.

Role of p38 MAPK in the selective release of IL-8 induced by chemical allergen in naive THp-1 cells.

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Departament de Fisiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


At present, the assessment of the allergenic potential of chemicals is carried out using animal models. Over the last decade, several in vitro methods mainly using primary dendritic cells have been proposed to identify the potential of chemicals to induce skin sensitization to meet current animal welfare and public opinions. The major limitations of such tests are the donor-to-donor variability, the low levels in the source, and a possible shortage of human sources. The aim of the present investigation was to establish an in vitro test to identify chemical allergens using the human promyelocytic cell line THP-1 in order to avoid some of these difficulties. We investigated whether the chemokine interleukin-8 or CXCL8 (IL-8) production could provide a methodology for the detection of both respiratory and contact allergens. THP-1 cells were exposed to contact allergens (cinnamaldehyde, dinitrochlorobenzene, nickel sulfate, penicillin G, p-phenylenediamine, tetramethylthiuram disulfide), to respiratory allergens (ammonium hexachloroplatinate, diphenylmethane diisocyanate, trimellitic anhydride) and to irritants (salicylic acid, phenol, sodium lauryl sulphate). Following 48 h of incubation, the release of IL-8 was evaluated by sandwich ELISA. IL-8 production was significantly increased after stimulation with all allergens tested, with the exception of trimellitic anhydride, whereas irritants exposure failed to induce IL-8 release. The lack of IL-8 production by trimellitic anhydride can be explained by the rapid hydrolysis of this chemical in water to trimellitic acid, which is not an allergen. In contrast to IL-8 release, CD54 and CD86 expression did not provide a sensitive method failing to correctly identify approximately 30% of the tested compounds. Although CD86 appears to be a more sensitive marker than CD54 when discriminating allergens from irritants neither of these markers provided robust methodology. We also investigated if a common activation pathway in allergen-induced IL-8 production involving p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase could be identified. By Western blot analysis we could indeed demonstrate p38 activation by all chemical allergens tested and, using the selective p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580, a significant modulation of allergen-induced IL-8 release could be achieved in all cases. Our data suggests that production of IL-8 by naïve THP-1 cells may represent a promising in vitro model for the screening of potential chemical allergens and activation of p38 MAPK represents a common pathway triggered by allergens.

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