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Toxicol In Vitro. 1997 Oct;11(5):613-8.

In vitro model for contact sensitization: I. Stimulatory capacities of human blood-derived dendritic cells and their phenotypical alterations in the presence of contact sensitizers.

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Paul Gerson Unna Skin Research Center, Beiersdorf AG, Unnastrasse 48, D-20245 Hamburg, Germany.


Dendritic cells (DC) are highly specialized antigen-presenting cells (APC) located in many non-lymphoid tissues and a specialized form of DC-the Langerhans cell (LC)-is found in the skin. The functionality of LC as APC is crucial for the induction of an allergic contact dermatitis. For a long time LC research has been hampered by the limiting numbers of functionally active LC that could be isolated from human skin. The addition of GM-CSF and IL-4 to the non-adherent fraction of mononuclear cells from peripheral blood generated a large amount of CD1a(+) HLA-DR(+) DC. These in vitro-generated DC exhibited the morphology, phenotype and autologous T-lymphocyte stimulating capacity of the human DC/LC system. We had tested phenotypical alterations of in vitro-generated DC under the influence of subtoxic concentrations of different chemicals and contact sensitizers. In vitro stimulation with the contact sensitizers urushiol, primin, C10-and C11-primin analogues, alantolactone, isoalantolactone and NiSO(4) resulted in a decrease of HLA-DR expression on the surface of these cells if the incubation period did not exceed 3 hr. Incubation with irritants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and benzalkonium chloride did not change or increase the HLA-DR surface expression under these conditions. With regard to the adhesion molecule ICAM-1, there was no clear difference between irritants and contact sensitizers. But based on the alteration of HLA-DR expression of dendritic cells under short-term exposure conditions, there was a clear-cut difference between irritants and contact sensitizers. In summary, this system can be used to discriminate between contact sensitizers and irritants.

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