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Immunology/Inflammation Laboratory Services

FITC & DNCB-Induced Contact Dermatitis Models

Dermatological Modeling for Inflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases 


FITC & DNCB-Induced Contact Dermatitis Models

Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin resulting from direct contact with a foreign substance. There are two main types of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in contact with a harsh or dangerous substance usually resulting from structural damage to the skin (loss of oils, moisture, and increased permeability). Allergic contact dermatitis, which is also known as contact hypersensitivity, indicates an overreaction of the body's immune system to a normally harmless substance. Irritant contact dermatitis may occur on first exposure to the substance, while contact hypersensitivity requires that a previous sensitization to the substance has occurred. Unlike atopic eczema, in contact dermatitis this sensitization almost exclusively occurs via the skin. Clinically, allergic contact dermatitis is a common cause of occupational allergic dermatitis and may be caused by a wide variety of substances such as heavy metals (i.e. nickel), a variety of petrochemicals (many of which are used in dyes and paints) or plant-derived compounds. The rash associated with poison oak/ivy exposure is also an example of allergic contact hypersensitivity (urushiol-induced contact dermatitis).




In contact hypersensitivity, the sensitizing agent is usually a small molecule which alone would be insufficient to generate an immune response. However, during the sensitization phase of allergic contact dermatitis, these small molecules become highly immunogenic by binding to proteins within the skin, effectively acting as a hapten. These proteins are then picked up by Langerhans cells of the skin which subsequently present haptenated peptides to T cells in the draining lymph nodes. Re-exposure to the sensitizing agent following sensitzation results in expansion of these T cells and infiltration into the skin where they induce the recruitment of additional cells and ultimately resulting in the dermatitis.


About FITC & DNCB-induced Contact Dermatitis Models at MDB:

During the sensitization phase skin on the flanks is exposed topically to either FITC or DNCB on two occasions. During this phase of the models these small molecules become immunogenic by binding to proteins within the skin and act as haptens. These haptenated proteins are then picked up by Langerhans cells of the skin and subsequently present haptenated peptides to T cells in the draining lymph nodes. In the challenge phase, mice are then challenged on the ear with the FITC or DNCB. During this phase haptenated peptides are again presented to T cells in the draining lymph nodes, however as the cells are already primed an inflammatory response occurs leading to the development of dermatitis. In the DNCB induced model the inflammation is Th1 mediated (IFN-g, IL-12) also with a role for CD8+ T cells, and macrophage like monocytes. In the FITC induced model is Th2 (IL-4, IL-5) mediated, a role for eosinophils and mast cells has also been demonstrated in this model.
These models share many of the features of human contact dermatitis, both sensitization and challenge occurs epicutaneously, during the sensitization phase no pathology is observed within exposed skin but on subsequent exposure exposed skin becomes red, swollen and hyperplasic, there is also a loss of barrier function in the skin. The distinct sensitization and challenge phases and the distinct locations of these events allow the modulation of the immune response at either stage. 


  • Ear thickness
  • Circulating or tissue level Biomarker analysis (protein or mRNA)
  • Cell Populations in Spleen/Lymph Node by FACS
  • Histology/IHC
  • PK blood collections


Mouse FITC Dermatitis

Mouse DNCB Dermatitis

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Ear Thickness in the FITC Contact Dermatitis Study

ear thickness in the FITC-induced contact dermatitis preclinical model

Ear thickness of subjects treated with vehicle or Dexamethasone in the FI