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Disperse dyes, which are suitable for dyeing synthetic fibres, are responsible for the great majority of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) cases to textile dyes. The aim of the present study was to investigate the sensitising potential of various disperse dyes using a biphasic protocol of the local lymph node assay (LLNA). Briefly, mice were shaved over a surface of approximately 2 cm(2) on their backs and treated using a "sensitisation-challenge protocol". The shaved surface was treated once daily on days 1-3 with 50 microl of the test solution. Animals remained untreated on days 4-14. On days 15-17, mice were treated with 25 microl of the test solution on the dorsum of both ears. Mice were killed on day 19 with deep CO(2) anaesthesia, the lymph nodes prepared and various end points, such as ear thickness, ear punch weight, lymph node weight, lymph node cell count and the proportion of various lymphocyte subpopulations, were determined by flow cytometry. The results were compared to control group treated with the vehicle alone. Our results showed that almost all of the tested textile dyes caused a significant increase in lymph node cell count and lymph node weight. We also observed an increase in ear thickness and ear punch weight in most of the concentrations tested for various textile dyes. We observed a decrease in CD4+ and CD8+ cells and an increase in CD19+, CD45+ and CD45+/1A+ cells in most of the cases, which is characteristic for allergens. The CD4+/CD69+ cells increased in only few experiments mainly with Disperse Blue 124 and Disperse Blue 106. Based on our results, the disperse dyes could be arranged in four groups on the basis of their sensitising potency in the following decreasing order (in parenthesis: lowest concentration causing a significant increase in lymph node cell number): group 1, strong: Disperse Blue 124 and Disperse Blue 106 (0.003%); group 2, moderate: Disperse Red 1 and Disperse Blue 1 (3%); group 3, weak: Disperse Orange 37 and Disperse Blue 35 (10%); and group 4, very weak: Disperse yellow 3 and Disperse Orange 3 (increase at 30% or no increase at 30%). In conclusion, our study shows that the biphasic LLNA protocol was proficient enough to study the sensitisation potential of tested textile dyes and provides data allowing to discriminate them according to their potency.