Contact allergens and irritants show discrete differences in the activation of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells: consequences for in vitro detection of contact allergens
In recent years test systems have been described that may be applied routinely to discriminate between contact allergens and irritants in vitro. Using human monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MoDC), this study was designed to refine the settings of a potential routine screening protocol for contact allergens and to investigate the so far poorly defined concentration dependency of contact allergen-specific effects. MoDC were generated by 6 days of culture in the presence of IL-4 and GM-CSF and were then cultured for 24 or 48 h in medium with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), contact allergens [picrylsulphonic acid (TNBS), 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (DNCB)] or irritants [sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS), benzalkonium chloride (BAC)] that were free of detectable endotoxin contamination. The induction of CD86 and HLA-DR expression was quantified by flow cytometry as markers for MoDC activation. LPS activation upregulated CD86 about 20-fold and HLA-DR expression about 4-fold. Compared to LPS, contact allergens had weaker effects. TNBS and DNCB induced activation marker upregulation starting slightly below the cytotoxic concentration and increasing in a dose-dependent manner. However, at partially cytotoxic concentrations, irritants also induced CD86 and HLA-DR expression, as confirmed by flow cytometry and quantitative RT-PCR. Both SDS and BAC induced activation marker expression on surviving MoDC, when more than 50% of the MoDC population had been killed by the treatment. Consequently, routine testing of unknown substances would need to quantify activation marker expression as well as cytotoxicity in parallel. In the concentration range around the lowest cytotoxic concentration, the assay may be able to discriminate between contact allergens and irritants.