Bioactivation of cinnamic alcohol forms several strong skin sensitizers

Chem Res Toxicol. 2014 Apr 21;27(4):568-75. doi: 10.1021/tx400428f. Epub 2014 Feb 7.


Cinnamic alcohol is a frequent contact allergen, causing allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) in a substantial number of individuals sensitized from contacts with fragrances. Hence, cinnamic alcohol is one of the constituents in fragrance mix I (FM I) used for screening contact allergy in dermatitis patients. Cinnamic alcohol lacks structural alerts for protein reactivity and must therefore be activated by either air oxidation or bioactivation to be able to act as a sensitizer. In the present study, we explored the bioactivation of cinnamic alcohol using human liver microsomes (HLM), and the potential pathways for these reactions were modeled by in silico (DFT) techniques. Subsequently, the reactivity of cinnamic alcohol and its metabolites toward a model hexapeptide were investigated. In addition to cinnamic aldehyde and cinnamic acid, two highly sensitizing epoxides previously unobserved in studies of bioactivation were detected in the incubations with HLMs. Formation of epoxy cinnamic aldehyde was shown (both by the liver microsomal experiments, in which no depletion of epoxy cinnamic alcohol was observed after initial formation, and by the very high activation energy found for the oxidation thereof by calculations) to proceed via cinnamic aldehyde and not epoxy cinnamic alcohol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activation, Metabolic*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Propanols / pharmacokinetics*
  • Propanols / pharmacology
  • Skin / drug effects*


  • Propanols
  • cinnamyl alcohol