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Toxicol Sci. 2009 Mar;108(1):194-206. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfn261. Epub 2008 Dec 15.

Inflammatory biomarkers of sulfur mustard analog 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide-induced skin injury in SKH-1 hairless mice.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.


Sulfur mustard (HD) is an alkylating and cytotoxic chemical warfare agent, which inflicts severe skin toxicity and an inflammatory response. Effective medical countermeasures against HD-caused skin toxicity are lacking due to limited knowledge of related mechanisms, which is mainly attributed to the requirement of more applicable and efficient animal skin toxicity models. Using a less toxic analog of HD, chloroethyl ethyl sulfide (CEES), we identified quantifiable inflammatory biomarkers of CEES-induced skin injury in dose- (0.05-2 mg) and time- (3-168 h) response experiments, and developed a CEES-induced skin toxicity SKH-1 hairless mouse model. Topical CEES treatment at high doses caused a significant dose-dependent increase in skin bi-fold thickness indicating edema. Histopathological evaluation of CEES-treated skin sections revealed increases in epidermal and dermal thickness, number of pyknotic basal keratinocytes, dermal capillaries, neutrophils, macrophages, mast cells, and desquamation of epidermis. CEES-induced dose-dependent increases in epidermal cell apoptosis and basal cell proliferation were demonstrated by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (tdt)-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling and proliferative cell nuclear antigen stainings, respectively. Following an increase in the mast cells, myeloperoxidase activity in the inflamed skin peaked at 24 h after CEES exposure coinciding with neutrophil infiltration. F4/80 staining of skin integuments revealed an increase in the number of macrophages after 24 h of CEES exposure. In conclusion, these results establish CEES-induced quantifiable inflammatory biomarkers in a more applicable and efficient SKH-1 hairless mouse model, which could be valuable for agent efficacy studies to develop potential prophylactic and therapeutic interventions for HD-induced skin toxicity.

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