Epicutaneous exposure to proteins and skin immune function

Ian Kimber, Christopher E M Griffiths, David A. Basketter, John P. Mcfadden, Rebecca J. Dearman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The skin has a sophisticated and highly orchestrated immune system. The ability of proteins encountered at skin surfaces to access that immune system remains controversial, however. In this article the question considered is whether proteins encountered epicutaneously (on the skin) at abraded or tape-stripped skin surfaces, but also at sites where the skin is intact, can engage with the cutaneous immune system to provoke and regulate responses. The available evidence suggests that epicutaneous exposure to foreign proteins is able to elicit immune and allergic responses, and that encounter with protein via this route may favour the development of selective Th2 responses and allergic sensitisation. It is also clear that proteins can modify immunological function when delivered topically and that intact skin may provide an effective route of exposure for active immunotherapy of allergic disease. An appreciation that epicutaneously applied proteins can interact with the skin immune system, even when delivered at intact skin sites, opens up important opportunities for immunotherapy, local immune modulation and the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. It also indicates that this route of exposure must be considered as part of the safety assessment and risk management of protein-induced allergic sensitisation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10-14
    Number of pages4
    JournalEuropean Journal of Dermatology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Allergy
    • IgE
    • Protein
    • Skin immune system
    • Skin penetration
    • Th2 response


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