The effect of histamine on human eosinophil degranulation and the receptor mediating such effect were studied in vitro using the complement C5a-mediated eosinophil peroxidase (EPO) release model. Following pre-treatment with 5 microg ml(-1) cytochalasin B(CB), C5a induced a concentration-dependent release of EPO from eosinophils isolated from healthy donors. Histamine (0.1-50 microM), but not L-histidine, inhibited concentration-dependently C5a-induced EPO release with IC(50) (95% CI) of 0.6 microM (0.3-1.2 microM) and maximal inhibition of approximately 60%. A similar effect was seen with the selective H(2) agonists dimaprit (IC(50) (95% CI)=6.9 microM (3.2-10.6 microM)) and amthamine (IC(50) (95% CI)=0.4 microM (0.2-0.7 microM)). Neither the selective H(1) agonist 6-(2-(4-imidazolyl)ethylamino)-N-(4-trifluoromethylphenyl) heptanecarboxamide(HTMT), nor the selective H(3) agonists imetit (up to 100 microM) had any significant effect. The inhibition by histamine was reversed by cimetidine (0.1-30 microM) and other H(2) antagonists, but not the H(1) antagonist mepyramine (1.0- 100 microM), nor the H(3) antagonist thioperamide (1.0-100 microM). Cimetidine (1-30 microM) shifted to the right the dimaprit log dose-response curve, producing a pA(2) value of 5.9 and Schild's plot slope of 0.98, thus confirming simple competitive antagonism. Histamine (10-100 microM) increased intracellular level of adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate, which was completely abolished by cimetidine (30 microM), but not mepyramine or thioperamide. The cyclic AMP analogue - dibutyryl cyclic AMP - also inhibited degranulation (IC(50) approximately 300 microM). The cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase(PDE) IV inhibitor rolipram (10 microM) synergistically enhanced the inhibition of EPO release by histamine. These results suggest that histamine, via stimulation of H(2) receptors and a consequent elevation of intracellular levels of cyclic AMP, inhibits human eosinophil degranulation.