The antigen processing requirements for urushiol, the immunogen of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), were tested by presentation of urushiol to cultured human urushiol-responsive T cells. Urushiol was added to antigen-presenting cells (APC) either before or after fixation with paraformaldehyde. Three distinct routes of antigen processing were detected. CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, which were dependent upon processing, proliferated if urushiol was added to APC before fixation, but did not proliferate when urushiol was added to APC after fixation. Processing of urushiol for presentation to CD8+ T cells was inhibited by azide, monensin, and brefeldin A. This suggests that urushiol was processed by the endogenous pathway. In contrast, presentation of urushiol to CD4+ T cells was inhibited by monensin but not by brefeldin A. This was compatible with antigen processing by the endosomal (exogenous) pathway. Finally, certain CD8+ T cells recognized urushiol in the absence of processing. These cells proliferated in response to APC incubated with urushiol after fixation. Classification of contact allergens by antigen processing pathway may predict the relative roles of CD4+ and CD8+ cells in the immunopathogensis of allergic contact dermatitis.
R S Kalish, J A Wood, A LaPorte