Basophils and allergic inflammation

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Oct;132(4):789-801; quiz 788. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.07.046.


Basophils were discovered by Paul Ehrlich in 1879 and represent the least abundant granulocyte population in mammals. The relative rarity of basophils and their phenotypic similarities with mast cells resulted in this cell lineage being historically overlooked, both clinically and experimentally. However, recent studies in human subjects and murine systems have shown that basophils perform nonredundant effector functions and significantly contribute to the development and progression of TH2 cytokine-mediated inflammation. Although the potential functions of murine and human basophils have provoked some controversy, recent genetic approaches indicate that basophils can migrate into lymphoid tissues and, in some circumstances, cooperate with other immune cells to promote optimal TH2 cytokine responses in vivo. This article provides a brief historical perspective on basophil-related research and discusses recent studies that have identified previously unappreciated molecules and pathways that regulate basophil development, activation, and function in the context of allergic inflammation. Furthermore, we highlight the unique effector functions of basophils and discuss their contributions to the development and pathogenesis of allergic inflammation in human disease. Finally, we discuss the therapeutic potential of targeting basophils in preventing or alleviating the development and progression of allergic inflammation.

Keywords: AD; APC; AR; Allergic rhinitis; Antigen-presenting cell; Atopic dermatitis; BAT; BaP; Basophil; Basophil activation test; Basophil precursor; CIU; Chronic idiopathic urticaria; EMH; EoE; Eosinophilic esophagitis; Extramedullary hematopoiesis; FDA; GMP; Granulocyte-monocyte progenitor; HDM; HSC; Hematopoietic stem cell; House dust mite; IgE; LTC(4); Leukotriene C(4); MCP; Mast cell precursor; MyD88; Myeloid differentiation primary response gene (88); T(H)2 cytokine; TSLP; Thymic stromal lymphopoietin; US Food and Drug Administration; allergic rhinitis; allergy; asthma; atopic dermatitis; eosinophilic esophagitis; food allergy; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; urticaria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basophils / cytology
  • Basophils / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / metabolism
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism


  • Cytokines