The effect of the new calcium antagonist nitrendipine on in vitro basophil activation was evaluated in 10 subjects. The histamine release induced by calcium ionophore A23187, f-met peptide and anti-IgE was inhibited, in a dose-dependent fashion, by nitrendipine in the concentration range of 1-100 microM. The activity of this calcium antagonist seems complex and related to an interference with calcium at multiple sites. At concentrations higher than 200 microM, nitrendipine causes histamine release from basophil leukocytes. This histamine secretion is likely to be due to a cytotoxic effect, since it is associated with an increase in LDH levels in the cell supernatant.