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Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2014 Nov;78(5):1135-42. doi: 10.1111/bcp.12422.

Keyhole limpet haemocyanin - a model antigen for human immunotoxicological studies.

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  • 1National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; Infectious Diseases and General Medicine Units, Canberra Hospital, Canberra, Australia.


Immunization with a T-cell dependent antigen has been promoted as a reliable and sensitive tool for assessing the influence of putative immunotoxic exposures or agents on immune function. Keyhole limpet haemocyanin (KLH) is a very large, copper-containing protein molecule derived from the haemolymph of the inedible mollusc, Megathura crenulata. KLH is a highly immunogenic T-cell dependent antigen that is used increasingly in immunotoxicological studies, particularly in those involving animals. This report systematically reviews the human clinical studies that have used trans-cutaneous KLH immunization for assessment of the influence of various physiological and disease states and exposures on immune function over the last 20 years (1994-2013). These studies varied in their immunization protocols, formulation of KLH, dose, site and route of administration and immunoassay platforms developed to assess KLH-specific responses. KLH immunization has been well tolerated with only mild to moderate adverse effects reported. Though very promising as a model antigen candidate in immunotoxicology research, more work on standardizing immunization and immunoassay protocols is required.

© 2014 The British Pharmacological Society.


KLH; clinical studies; immunization; immunotoxicology; keyhole limpet haemocyanin

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