We investigated 10 sensitized and 10 nonsensitized workers from a pharmaceutic factory who had been exposed to powdered trypsin, chymotrypsin, bromelain, papain, amylase, and lipase. Ten nonallergic subjects served as a control group. Titrated skin prick tests (SPT), RAST, and immunoblot studies were performed with all six enzymes. SPT reactivity revealed multiple sensitizations to proteolytic enzymes, i.e., papain (specifically sensitized/total number of sensitizations: 9/10), trypsin (8/10), chymotrypsin (8/10), and bromelain (7/10) and appeared to be more frequent and more pronounced than sensitizations to amylase (3/10) or lipase (3/10). The low molecular weight of proteolytic enzymes (20-30 kDa) and their biologic activity might facilitate mucosal penetration more easily and thus-compared to amylase and lipase-permit an immune response and induction of allergic hypersensitivity. Immunoblot studies demonstrated IgG-binding bands in both SPT-positive and -negative workers, indicating exposure to the enzymes, but not in 10 unexposed control subjects. IgE-binding bands of the enzymes were detected only in workers with a positive SPT reaction and/or a positive RAST result. IgG bands were more frequent and the IgG/IgE ratio was increased in workers without allergic complaints compared to symptomatic workers. This might indicate that high levels of specific IgG antibodies to enzymes are associated with an immune response lacking allergic manifestations in spite of IgE-mediated sensitizations to the enzymes. Atopic subjects were at greater risk of developing IgE-mediated sensitization (7/10) and allergic symptoms to enzymes (5/7). However, even without risk of atopy, IgE-mediated hypersensitivity occurred in a few subjects (3/13) exposed to enzymes by inhalation for prolonged periods of time.