BACKGROUND: Phthalates are a group of endocrine disrupting chemicals suspected to influence the immune system. The aim of this systematic review is to summarise the present knowledge on the influence of phthalates on monocyte and macrophage production and secretion of cytokines, an influence which could affect both pro- and anti-inflammatory abilities of these cells.
STRATEGY AND RESULTS: A systematic search was performed in Medline, Embase and Toxline in June 2013, last updated 3rd of August 2014. Criteria used to select studies were described and published beforehand online on Prospero (http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/NIHR_PROSPERO, registration number CRD42013004236). In vivo, ex vivo and in vitro studies investigating the influence of phthalates on cytokine mRNA expression and cytokine secretion in animals and humans were included. A total of 11 reports, containing 12 studies, were found eligible for inclusion. In these, a total of four different phthalate diesters, six primary metabolites (phthalate monoesters) and seven different cytokines were investigated. Though all studies varied greatly in study design and species sources, four out of five studies that investigated di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate found an increased tumour necrosis factor-α secretion/production from monocytes or macrophages. A summary of cytokine measurements was not possible since few studies were comparable in study design and due to insufficient reporting of raw data for most of the included studies.
CONCLUSION: Results from this review have suggested that at least one phthalate (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) has the ability to enhance tumour necrosis factor-α production/secretion from monocytes/macrophages in vitro, but also observed ex vivo. Influence of other phthalates on other cytokines has only been investigated in few studies. Thus, in vitro studies on primary human monocytes/macrophages as well as more in vivo studies are needed to confirm or dispute these findings.