1. Histamine (0.004-2 microm) induced a concentration-dependent shape change of human eosinophils, but not of neutrophils or basophils, detected as an increase in forward scatter (FSC) in the gated autofluorescence/forward scatter (GAFS) assay. 2. The histamine-induced eosinophil shape change was completely abolished by thioperamide (10 microm), an H3/H4 receptor antagonist, but was not inhibited by pyrilamine or cimetidine (10 microm), H1 and H2 receptor antagonists, respectively. The H4 receptor agonists, clobenpropit and clozapine (0.004-2 microm), which are also H3 receptor antagonists, both induced eosinophil shape change, which was inhibited by thioperamide (10 microm). The H3/H4 receptor agonists, imetit, R-alpha-methyl histamine and N-alpha-methyl histamine (0.004-2 microm) also induced eosinophil shape change. 3. Histamine induced actin polymerisation (0.015-10 microm), intracellular calcium mobilisation (10-100 microm) and a significant upregulation of expression of the cell adhesion molecule CD11b (0.004-10 microm) in eosinophils, all of which were inhibited by thioperamide (10-100 microm). In addition, the H4 receptor agonist/H3 receptor antagonist clozapine (20 microm) stimulated a rise in intracellular calcium in eosinophils. 4. Activation of H4 receptors by histamine (1 microm) primed eosinophils for increased chemotactic responses to eotaxin, but histamine (0.1-10 microm) did not directly induce chemotaxis of eosinophils. 5. Pertussis toxin (1 microg ml-1) inhibited shape change and actin polymerisation responses induced by histamine showing that these effects are mediated by coupling to a Galphai/o G-protein. 6. This study demonstrates that human eosinophils express functional H4 receptors and may provide a novel target for allergic disease therapy.