Roggen1, E.L., Soni1, N.K., Verheyen2, G.R. 1Department of Protein Screening, Molecular Biotechnology, Novozymes AS Smoermosevej 11, 2880, Bagsvaerd, Denmark; 2Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek, Mol, Belgium.

As yet, in vitro assessment of the immunotoxic potency of respiratory agents is not possible. The complexity of the endpoint and the respiratory tract, and the limited availability of well-documented respiratory agents are the main reasons. The evidence that epithelial cells (ECs) are triggered by compounds to express in vitro surface proteins and soluble mediators, has stimulated their use for developing tests for respiratory immunotoxicity. A variety of airway ECs and EC-lines have been assessed, but the available information seems to point at human alveolar cells (e.g., A549) as the most convenient cell type. EC-based test formats with various degrees of complexity have been assessed. So far, promising results were obtained using a 3D model using the human A549 lung cell line. Dendritic cells (DCs) have been subjected to intensive research. However, currently available tests are not well suited to discern among the potency of sensitizers. Potential explanations include the lack of standardized protocols for the generation of DCs, no good standards for estimating the quality of in vitro derived DC-cultures, and limited dynamics of the currently used end-points. Alveolar macrophages (AMs) have so far received less attention. This may proof unjustified as macrophages may link innate responses to adaptive immunity. The observation that ECs, DCs and AMs affect each other, suggests that test formats are required combining at least two of these cell types if ranking of compounds according to their sensitizing potency is the aim. In addition, the capacity of compounds to cross a cellular membrane is an important property of an immunotoxic compound, which can be assessed only in 3D reconstituted human tissue models. While promising data have been reported for the skin, immunocompetent 3D reconstituted human lung remains to be evaluated for respiratory immunotoxicity. Obviously, the success of any of these simplified test (as compared to the complexity of the immune response) is highly dependent on the availability of early stage biomarkers (expressed at mucosal barrier level) that are predictive for relevant immunotoxicity mechanisms occurring down-stream of the immune response. As yet, such biomarkers are not yet available.


Alveolar macrophage, Dendritic cell, Epithelial cell, In vitro, Reconstituted human tissue, Respiratory, Sensitization

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