Quantification of chemical peptide reactivity for screening contact allergens: a classification tree model approach

Toxicol Sci. 2007 Jun;97(2):417-27. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfm064. Epub 2007 Mar 30.


In the interest of reducing animal use, in vitro alternatives for skin sensitization testing are under development. One unifying characteristic of chemical allergens is the requirement that they react with proteins for the effective induction of skin sensitization. The majority of chemical allergens are electrophilic and react with nucleophilic amino acids. To determine whether and to what extent reactivity correlates with skin sensitization potential, 82 chemicals comprising allergens of different potencies and nonallergenic chemicals were evaluated for their ability to react with reduced glutathione (GSH) or with two synthetic peptides containing either a single cysteine or lysine. Following a 15-min reaction time with GSH, or a 24-h reaction time with the two synthetic peptides, the samples were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. UV detection was used to monitor the depletion of GSH or the peptides. The peptide reactivity data were compared with existing local lymph node assay data using recursive partitioning methodology to build a classification tree that allowed a ranking of reactivity as minimal, low, moderate, and high. Generally, nonallergens and weak allergens demonstrated minimal to low peptide reactivity, whereas moderate to extremely potent allergens displayed moderate to high peptide reactivity. Classifying minimal reactivity as nonsensitizers and low, moderate, and high reactivity as sensitizers, it was determined that a model based on cysteine and lysine gave a prediction accuracy of 89%. The results of these investigations reveal that measurement of peptide reactivity has considerable potential utility as a screening approach for skin sensitization testing, and thereby for reducing reliance on animal-based test methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / chemistry*
  • Allergens / classification*
  • Allergens / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / pathology*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Glutathione / chemistry
  • Lymph Nodes / drug effects
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Models, Statistical
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / classification*
  • Peptides / toxicity


  • Allergens
  • Peptides
  • Glutathione
  • Lysine
  • Cysteine