Perturbations of the immune system by xenobiotics

Environ Health Perspect. 1989 May;81:157-62. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8981157.


Classically, immunotoxicology has been defined as the study of adverse effect on the immune system associated with exposure to environmental chemicals, pharmacologic agents, and biologicals. Although a multitude of immune system defects may occur, these can be generally categorized as immunomodulation (immune suppression or potentiation), hypersensitivity (i.e., allergy), and autoimmunity. We present here a brief synopsis of the ontogeny of immunotoxicology as a discipline including methodology currently used in our laboratory, as well as in others, for investigating the immunomodulatory potential of chemicals at the cellular and biochemical level. Additionally, we summarize some studies related to the immunosuppressive effects of one particular compound, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Last we discuss potential future directions and challenges in the field of immunotoxicology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / physiopathology
  • Toxicology / methods
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacology*


  • Xenobiotics