Patients with atopic dermatitis have attenuated and distinct contact hypersensitivity responses to common allergens in skin

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Mar;135(3):712-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.11.017. Epub 2015 Jan 10.


Background: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common inflammatory disease. The prevalence of allergic contact dermatitis to allergens (eg, fragrance) is higher in patients with AD, despite a trend toward weaker clinical allergic contact dermatitis reactions. The role of the AD skin phenotype in modulating allergic sensitization to common sensitizers has not been evaluated.

Objective: We sought to investigate whether patients with AD have altered tissue immune responses on allergen challenge.

Methods: Gene expression and immunohistochemistry studies were performed on biopsy specimens from 10 patients with AD and 14 patients without AD patch tested with common contact allergens (nickel, fragrance, and rubber).

Results: Although 1085 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were commonly modulated in patch-tested skin from patients with AD and patients without AD versus control skin, 1185 DEGs were uniquely altered in skin from patients without AD, and only 246 DEGs were altered in skin from patients with AD. Although many inflammatory products (ie, matrix metalloproteinase 12/matrix metalloproteinase 1/S100A9) were upregulated in both groups, higher-magnitude changes and upregulation of interferon responses were evident only in the non-AD group. Stratification by allergen showed decreased expression of immune, TH1-subset, and TH2-subset genes in nickel-related AD responses, with increased TH17/IL-23 skewing. Rubber/fragrance showed similar trends of lesser magnitude. Negative regulators showed higher expression in patients with AD.

Conclusions: Through contact sensitization, our study offers new insights into AD. Allergic immune reactions were globally attenuated and differentially polarized in patients with AD, with significant decreases in levels of TH1 products, some increases in levels of TH17 products, and inconsistent upregulation in levels of TH2 products. The overall hyporesponsiveness in skin from patients with background AD might be explained by baseline immune abnormalities, such as increased TH2, TH17, and negative regulator levels compared with those seen in non-AD skin.

Keywords: Atopic dermatitis; T-cell polarization; allergic contact dermatitis; fragrance; human skin; nickel; patch testing; rubber.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Calgranulin B / genetics
  • Calgranulin B / immunology
  • Cosmetics / chemistry
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Dermatitis, Contact / immunology*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Latex / immunology
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / immunology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 12 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 12 / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nickel / immunology
  • Patch Tests
  • Rubber / chemistry
  • Skin
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / pathology
  • Th17 Cells / immunology
  • Th17 Cells / pathology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / pathology
  • Transcriptome / immunology*


  • Allergens
  • Calgranulin B
  • Cosmetics
  • Cytokines
  • Latex
  • Nickel
  • Rubber
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 12
  • MMP1 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1