In vitro monitoring of human t cell responses to skin sensitizing chemicals—a systematic review
Background: Chemical allergies are T cell-mediated diseases that often manifest in the skin as allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). To prevent ACD on a public health scale and avoid elici-tation reactions at the individual patient level, predictive and diagnostic tests, respectively, are in-dispensable. Currently, there is no validated in vitro T cell assay available. The main bottlenecks concern the inefficient generation of T cell epitopes and the detection of rare antigen-specific T cells. Methods: Here, we systematically review original experimental research papers describing T cell activation to chemical skin sensitizers. We focus our search on studies published in the PubMed and Scopus databases on non-metallic allergens in the last 20 years. Results: We identified 37 papers, among them 32 (86%) describing antigen-specific human T cell activation to 31 different chemical allergens. The remaining studies measured the general effects of chemical allergens on T cell function (five studies, 14%). Most antigen-specific studies used peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) as antigen-presenting cells (APC, 75%) and interrogated the blood T cell pool (91%). Depending on the individual chemical properties, T cell epitopes were generated either by direct ad-ministration into the culture medium (72%), separate modification of autologous APC (29%) or by use of hapten-modified model proteins (13%). Read-outs were mainly based on proliferation (91%), often combined with cytokine secretion (53%). The analysis of T cell clones offers additional opportunities to elucidate the mechanisms of epitope formation and cross-reactivity (13%). The best re-searched allergen was p-phenylenediamine (PPD, 12 studies, 38%). For this and some other aller-gens, stronger immune responses were observed in some allergic patients (15/31 chemicals, 48%), illustrating the in vivo relevance of the identified T cells while detection limits remain challenging in many cases. Interpretation: Our results illustrate current hardships and possible solutions to monitoring T cell responses to individual chemical skin sensitizers. The provided data can guide the further development of T cell assays to unfold their full predictive and diagnostic potential, including cross-reactivity assessments.