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Colophony: an in vitro model for the induction of sensitization


Elms Health and Safety Laboratory, Broad Lane, Sheffield, S3 7HQ, UK.



The potential of colophony fumes from soldering flux to induce asthma has been known since the 1970s, however, no direct in vitro or in vivo evidence has been reported. The present study investigated the potential of colophony to stimulate human phagocytic cells to produce reactive oxygen species.


The human cell line HL-60 was differentiated to produce cells with a monocyte-like and a neutrophil-like phenotypes. A number of procedures were used to confirm the phenotype of these differentiated cells including morphology, esterase activity, flow cytometry and phagocytosis. The potential of colophony to stimulate human phagocytic cells to produce reactive oxygen species was monitored using flow cytoenzymology.


We were able to show that intracellular peroxide levels were increased in both monocyte-like and neutrophil-like cells, but not in undifferentiated HL-60 cells following the addition of colophony.


The resin acid epoxides and hydroperoxides which have been suggested to be sensitizers in contact allergy, are degraded during the soldering process. However, conditions for the oxidation of colophony may occur in vivo as a result of the colophony-induced oxidative burst from neutrophils and monocytes. These oxidation products may then interact with body proteins to further initiate immune responses. Therefore for the preparation of low molecular weight chemical (LMWC)–protein conjugates, consideration must be taken to determine whether the LMWC is undergoing a reaction in vivo before it is interacting with body proteins.

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