Xenobiotic metabolism capacities of human skin in comparison with a 3D epidermis model and keratinocyte-based cell culture as in vitro alternatives for chemical testing: activating enzymes (Phase I)

Exp Dermatol. 2012 May;21(5):358-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2012.01486.x.


Skin is important for the absorption and metabolism of exposed chemicals such as cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. The Seventh Amendment to the EU Cosmetics Directive prohibits the use of animals for cosmetic testing for certain endpoints, such as genotoxicity; therefore, there is an urgent need to understand the xenobiotic metabolizing capacities of human skin and to compare these activities with reconstructed 3D skin models developed to replace animal testing. We have measured Phase I enzyme activities of cytochrome P450 (CYP) and cyclooxygenase (COX) in ex vivo human skin, the 3D skin model EpiDerm™ (EPI-200), immortalized keratinocyte-based cell lines and primary normal human epidermal keratinocytes. Our data demonstrate that basal CYP enzyme activities are very low in whole human skin and EPI-200 as well as keratinocytes. In addition, activities in monolayer cells differed from organotypic tissues after induction. COX activity was similar in skin, EPI-200 and NHEK cells, but was significantly lower in immortalized keratinocytes. Hence, the 3D model EPI-200 might represent a more suitable model for dermatotoxicological studies. Altogether, these data help to better understand skin metabolism and expand the knowledge of in vitro alternatives used for dermatotoxicity testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Testing Alternatives
  • Benz(a)Anthracenes / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Dermotoxins
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Methylcholanthrene
  • Models, Biological*
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism*
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Toxicology
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*


  • Benz(a)Anthracenes
  • Dermotoxins
  • Xenobiotics
  • Methylcholanthrene
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Dinoprostone