Immunologic mechanisms in hypersensitivity reactions to metal ions: an overview


Lioba Büdinger, Hautklinik der RWTH Aachen
Pauwelsstr. 30
D-52074 Aachen


Metal ions such as Ni2+, Co2+, Cu2+, or Cr3+ are haptens with a high immunogenic potential, as contact dermatitis caused by ionic metals occurs in about 10–15% of the human population. Since alloys containing Ni2+, Co2+, and Cr3+ are components of implants in replacement surgery, dentures, orthodontic wires, and various other devices, adverse reactions to metal ions create serious problems in practical medicine as incompatibility reactions to metal-containing biomaterials. On the other hand, contact dermatitis to metal ions such as Ni2+ is a well-established model for studying the molecular mechanisms involved in the recognition of haptens by the immune system. Although many investigations have been performed to elucidate the molecular interactions causing contact hypersensitivity in man, many aspects remain to be clarified. This review will focus on the experimental data accumulated so far on the immunologic mechanisms responsible for the recognition of metal ions by T cells and eliciting adverse immune reactions causing contact dermatitis.