We have previously shown that physiological concentrations of zinc (congruent to 7 X 10(-6) M) inhibit the release of histamine from human basophil leukocytes (Marone et al., J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 217: 292, 1981). In these experiments we compared the effect of zinc chloride on the release of chemical mediators from human basophils and mast cells isolated from human lung. Preincubation (5 min, 37 degrees C) of human basophils and lung mast cells with zinc chloride (10(-6)-3 X 10(-5) M) caused dose-related inhibition of histamine and peptide leukotriene C4 (LTC4) release induced by anti-IgE. Increase Ca2+ concentrations (0.3 to 6 mM) in the extracellular medium completely reversed the inhibitory effect of zinc on anti-IgE-mediated histamine secretion. Zinc chloride was a competitive antagonist of the action of Ca2+ in histamine secretion induced by anti-IgE with a dissociation constant (Kd) of about 10(-5) M in both the basophil and mast cell systems. Thus physiological concentrations of zinc inhibit the release of histamine from human basophils and lung mast cells, presumably by blocking Ca2+ uptake induced by anti-IgE activation.