Allergic rhinitis: not purely a histamine-related disease

Allergy. 2000;55 Suppl 64:7-16. doi: 10.1034/j.1398-9995.2000.00802.x.


Allergic rhinitis is an inflammatory disorder of the nasal mucosa typified by the symptoms of nasal itch, sneeze, anterior nasal secretions, and nasal blockage. These symptoms arise from the interaction between mediators and neural, vascular, and glandular structures within the nose. Nasal itch, sneezes, and rhinorrhoea are predominantly neural in origin, while nasal obstruction is predominantly vascular. Nasal biopsy studies show accumulation of eosinophils within the lamina propria and epithelium and an increase in tissue and cell surface basophils in both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis. These cells are in an activated state. Within the epithelium, increased numbers of mast cells, T cells and Langerhans' cells, which induce T-cell activation, are found. The accumulation of these cells can be linked to chemokine and cytokine generation by the epithelial cells themselves. Thus, the tissue cell recruitment is orchestrated by activated mast cells, T cells, and epithelial cells, with the recruited tissue eosinophils also contributing to their persistence at this site through autocrine mechanisms. Mast cells generate an array of mediators including histamine, tryptase, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. Histamine is also generated by basophils. Eosinophils and basophils contribute to the leukotriene synthesis within the tissue. Histamine nasal insufflation induces nasal itch, sneeze, and rhinorrhoea as well as nasal blockage, thereby reproducing all the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. These effects are primarily mediated by H1-receptors, and H1-receptor antagonists are a prominent treatment. Antagonism of histamine at these receptors reduces symptoms by about 40-50%, with the greatest effect on the neurally mediated responses. Thus, histamine is a major mediator of allergic rhinitis, but not the sole contributor. Nasal insufflation with leukotrienes, prostaglandins, or kinins is associated with the development of nasal blockage. These mediators act primarily on the nasal vasculature and, in this respect, leukotrienes are potent mediators. Leukotrienes also induce plasma protein exudation, which contributes to the anterior nasal secretions. Studies with combination products have suggested that modifying the effects of both leukotrienes and histamine has complementary effects in relieving nasal symptoms, indicating that both these mediators are relevant to disease expression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Histamine / immunology
  • Humans
  • Langerhans Cells / immunology
  • Leukotrienes / immunology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Receptors, Histamine H1 / immunology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / immunology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Leukotrienes
  • Receptors, Histamine H1
  • Histamine