Histamine release from peripheral blood leukocytes challenged with anti-human IgE was studied in patients with chronic urticaria and nonatopic controls. 19 of 23 controls, but only 6 of 20 patients, released over 20% of the total available leukocyte histamine. The response to anti-IgE concentrations of 1.66, 0.33, 0.066, and 0.013 mug antibody N/ml was significantly lower in patients than in controls. Serum IgE levels were significantly higher in the patients but total histamine content of about 10(7) leukocytes was not. Deuterium oxide (D2O) greatly increased histamine release (in both groups), indicating that the anti-IgE interacted with the basophils of urticaria patients. Passive sensitization of leukocytes with biologically active IgE was achieved in both patients and control subjects whose cells responded to anti-IgE, but was not achieved in either patients or control subjects whose cells were nonresponsive to anti-IgE challenge. 125I-anti-IgE autoradiographic studies revealed no obvious quantitative abnormality in the amount of basophil-bound IgE in chronic urticaria patients. Ionophore stimulation of aliquots of the same leukocytes used for anti-IgE challenge demonstrated that the urticaria patients' basophils were capable of releasing normal amounts of histamine. Leukocyte cyclic AMP levels in the two groups were not significantly different either in base-line levels or in responsiveness to stimulation with isoproterenol. These data indicate that chronic urticaria patients have a (acquired?) defect in leukocyte histamine release that occurs after the anti-IgE-IgE interaction, but before the actual (second-stage) release process, and that is comparable to the phenomenon of desensitization.
F Kern, L M Lichtenstein