Biomarkers of immunotoxicity for environmental and public health research

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 May;8(5):1388-401. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8051388. Epub 2011 May 6.


The immune response plays an important role in the pathophysiology of numerous diseases including asthma, autoimmunity and cancer. Application of biomarkers of immunotoxicity in epidemiology studies and human clinical trials can improve our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the associations between environmental exposures and development of these immune-mediated diseases. Immunological biomarkers currently used in environmental health studies include detection of key components of innate and adaptive immunity (e.g., complement, immunoglobulin and cell subsets) as well as functional responses and activation of key immune cells. The use of high-throughput assays, including flow cytometry, Luminex, and Multi-spot cytokine detection methods can further provide quantitative analysis of immune effects. Due to the complexity and redundancy of the immune response, an integrated assessment of several components of the immune responses is needed. The rapidly expanding field of immunoinformatics will also aid in the synthesis of the vast amount of data being generated. This review discusses and provides examples of how the identification and development of immunological biomarkers for use in studies of environmental exposures and immune-mediated disorders can be achieved.

Keywords: COPD; Luminex; asthma; biomarker validation; immunoinformatics; immunome; immunotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergy and Immunology / trends*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Biomarkers*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Medicine / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology
  • Specimen Handling


  • Biomarkers