Antiallergic effects of H1-receptor antagonists

Allergy. 2000;55 Suppl 64:17-27. doi: 10.1034/j.1398-9995.2000.00803.x.


The primary mechanism of antihistamine action in the treatment of allergic diseases is believed to be competitive antagonism of histamine binding to cellular receptors (specifically, the H1-receptors), which are present on nerve endings, smooth muscles, and glandular cells. This notion is supported by the fact that structurally unrelated drugs antagonize the H1-receptor and provide clinical benefit. However, H1-receptor antagonism may not be their sole mechanism of action in treating allergic rhinitis. On the basis of in vitro and animal experiments, drugs classified as H1-receptor antagonists have long been recognized to have additional pharmacological properties. Most first-generation H1-antihistamines have anticholinergic, sedative, local anaesthetic, and anti-5-HT effects, which might favourably affect the symptoms of the allergic response but also contribute to side-effects. These additional properties are not uniformly distributed among drugs classified as H1-receptor antagonists. Azatadine, for example, inhibits in vitro IgE-mediated histamine and leukotriene (LT) release from mast cells and basophils. In human challenge models, terfenadine, azatadine, and loratadine reduce IgE-mediated histamine release. Cetirizine reduces eosinophilic infiltration at the site of antigen challenge in the skin, but not the nose. In a nasal antigen challenge model, cetirizine pretreatment did not affect the levels of histamine and prostaglandin D2 recovered in postchallenge lavages, whereas the levels of albumin, N-tosyl-L-arginine methyl ester (TAME) esterase activity, and LTs were reduced. Terfenadine, cetirizine, and loratadine blocked allergen-induced hyperresponsiveness to methacholine. In view of the complexity of the pathophysiology of allergy, a number of H1 antagonists with additional properties are currently under development for allergic diseases. Mizolastine, a new H1-receptor antagonist, has been shown to have additional actions that should help reduce the allergic response. In animal models, mizolastine inhibits antigen-induced eosinophil infiltration into mouse skin and into the nasal cavity of guinea-pigs. Mizolastine also significantly inhibits antigen-induced neutrophil infiltration into the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids of guinea-pigs. In addition, it inhibits arachidonic acid-induced paw oedema in rats without affecting carrageenin-induced rat paw oedema, suggesting an effect on LT generation. In man, mizolastine inhibits early and late antigen-induced soluble intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) levels in skin blisters. It also inhibits anaphylactic release of histamine from rodent mast cells, LTC4 and LTB4 release from mouse bone-marrow-derived mast cells, LTC4 release from rat intestinal mast cells, and 5-lipoxygenase activity of polymorphonuclear neutrophils of guinea-pig intestines and rat basophilic leukaemia cells. It is clear that a number of H1-antihistamines have multiple effects on the allergic inflammatory response. It is equally clear that these antiallergic effects are not uniformly shared among all drugs of this class. The assessment of the clinical significance of these results and research regarding the parts of the molecules responsible for these activities are underway.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / immunology*
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzimidazoles / immunology
  • Benzimidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists / immunology*
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / drug therapy*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Receptors, Histamine H1 / immunology
  • Rhinitis / drug therapy
  • Rhinitis / immunology


  • Anti-Allergic Agents
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists
  • Receptors, Histamine H1
  • mizolastine