T-cell recognition of chemicals, protein allergens and drugs: towards the development of in vitro assays

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Dec;67(24):4171-84. doi: 10.1007/s00018-010-0495-3. Epub 2010 Aug 18.


Chemicals can elicit T-cell-mediated diseases such as allergic contact dermatitis and adverse drug reactions. Therefore, testing of chemicals, drugs and protein allergens for hazard identification and risk assessment is essential in regulatory toxicology. The seventh amendment of the EU Cosmetics Directive now prohibits the testing of cosmetic ingredients in mice, guinea pigs and other animal species to assess their sensitizing potential. In addition, the EU Chemicals Directive REACh requires the retesting of more than 30,000 chemicals for different toxicological endpoints, including sensitization, requiring vast numbers of animals. Therefore, alternative methods are urgently needed to eventually replace animal testing. Here, we summarize the outcome of an expert meeting in Rome on 7 November 2009 on the development of T-cell-based in vitro assays as tools in immunotoxicology to identify hazardous chemicals and drugs. In addition, we provide an overview of the development of the field over the last two decades.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / chemistry
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animal Testing Alternatives
  • Animals
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Cosmetics
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / immunology
  • Haptens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations* / chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Risk Assessment
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Allergens
  • Cosmetics
  • Haptens
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell