Nasal polyps were obtained from 22 patients undergoing polyp surgery. They were chopped into fragments of approximately 2 mm2, washed free of blood, and passively sensitized with serum from timothy allergen sensitive patients (RAST 30-40%), then, challenged with timothy allergen. Analysis of the incubation medium after a 30 min challenge as assessed by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography and bioassay revealed the presence of leukotriene (LT) LTB4, LTC4, LTD4 and LTE4 (29 +/- 9, 6.6 +/- 3, 62 +/- 13 & 86 +/- 23 pmol/g tissue wet weight, respectively). The human nasal polyps also released histamine which reached a maximum after approximately 5 min (2.8 +/- 1.28 nmol/g tissue), as measured by radioenzymatic assay. A similar profile of leukotrienes and histamine release was observed when the nasal polyps were stimulated with ionophore A23187. However, the ionophore stimulated release was greater than that observed for the antigen challenge. When human polyps were stimulated with a mixture of the ionophore and arachidonic acid, all the above products as well as 5-hydroxy-eicosatetraenoic acid (5-HETE), 12-HETE, and 15-HETE were detected in the medium. These data, taken together, demonstrate that human nasal polyps are able to release significant amounts of leukotrienes and histamine upon both immunological and non-immunological stimulations and that these responses might significantly contribute to the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.