Allergy and the skin

Clin Exp Immunol. 2008 Sep;153 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):27-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03718.x.


Allergic skin disorders include urticaria, angioedema, contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis, but the model fitting most closely the systemic concept of allergy is atopic dermatitis (AD), the pathogenesis of which is linked to a complex interaction between skin barrier dysfunction and environmental factors such as allergens and microbes. In particular, an important advance was the demonstration that the mutation of the skin barrier protein filaggrin is related strictly to allergen sensitization and to the development of asthma in subjects with AD. The altered skin barrier function, caused by several factors, results in the passage of allergens through the skin and to systemic responses. A pivotal role in such a response is exerted by Langerhans cells which, via their immunoglobulin E (IgE) receptor, capture the allergens and present them to T cells. When T helper type 2 (Th2) cells are activated, the production of a proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines pattern sustains the persistence of inflammation. Known AD-related cytokines are interleukin (IL)-5, IL-13 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, with emerging importance for IL-17, which seems to drive airway inflammation following cutaneous exposure to antigens, and IL-31, which is expressed primarily in skin-homing Th2 cells. Skin-homing is another crucial event in AD, mediated by the cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigens (CLA) receptor, which characterizes T cell subpopulations with different roles in AD and asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Langerhans Cells / immunology
  • Skin / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Cytokines
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • filaggrin
  • Immunoglobulin E