Effect of a microemulsion system on hapten-peptide reactivity studies: examples of hydroxycitronellal and citral, fragrance skin sensitizers, with glutathione

Chem Res Toxicol. 2010 Sep 20;23(9):1433-41. doi: 10.1021/tx100043b.


In chemico methods, based on the assessment of hapten reactivity toward peptides, have been proposed as alternative methods for the assessment of the skin sensitizing potential of chemicals. However, even if these approaches seem very promising, a major drawback inherent to most in vitro methods is the poor water solubility of many organic molecules in aqueous media. Thus, semiorganic media based on buffer solutions and organic cosolvents such as ethanol or acetonitrile have been proposed, but a narrow equilibrium should be found between the peptide and chemical solubilities. Microemulsions have been shown to be very valuable when reacting a lipophilic organic compound soluble in hydrophobic media with a very hydrophilic organic substance insoluble in most organic solvents. However, the reaction rate between polar and apolar reactants can be influenced, in some cases, by the use of microemulsions. On the basis of NMR experiments, we have compared the reactivity of hydroxycitronellal 1 and citral 2, two weak fragrance sensitizers of major clinical relevance, toward glutathione used as a model nucleophile in a water/acetonitrile 2:1 mixture and in a microemulsion based on chloroform/water/tert-butanol/sodium dodecylsulphate. Hydroxycitronellal and citral were found to react with the thiol group of glutathione to form, in both media, identical adducts, but the observed reaction rates were found to be different. In the case of hydroxycitronellal, the observed reaction rate of glutathione addition on the aldehyde was found to be about three times higher in the microemulsion compared to the classical semiorganic mixture. In the case of citral, the situation was more complex as the Michael addition of glutathione on the conjugated double bond was found to be significantly faster in the classical semiorganic mixture, while the subsequent reaction of a second glutathione molecule on the aldehyde was found to be faster in the microemulsion. This chloroform/water/tert-butanol/sodium dodecylsulphate microemulsion, apparently of the bicontinuous type according to DOSY data, could be of potential interest for the in chemico evaluation of lipophilic chemicals toward peptides to solve solubility problems even if the impact on the chemical rate needs to be further investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetonitriles / chemistry
  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Carbon Isotopes / chemistry
  • Chloroform / chemistry
  • Emulsions
  • Glutathione / chemistry*
  • Haptens / chemistry*
  • Kinetics
  • Monoterpenes / chemical synthesis
  • Monoterpenes / chemistry*
  • Perfume / chemistry*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Solubility
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / chemistry
  • Terpenes / chemical synthesis
  • Terpenes / chemistry*
  • Water / chemistry
  • tert-Butyl Alcohol / chemistry


  • Acetonitriles
  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Emulsions
  • Haptens
  • Monoterpenes
  • Perfume
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Terpenes
  • Water
  • Chloroform
  • hydroxycitronellal
  • Glutathione
  • tert-Butyl Alcohol
  • citral
  • acetonitrile