Cultured cells of the smooth muscle line DDT1MF-2, which was derived from a hamster vas deferens tumor, expressed histamine H1-type receptors and responded biochemically and functionally to H1-specific stimulation. The H1-receptor antagonist [3H]-pyrilamine bound specifically to 9.7 x 10(6) sites/DDT1MF-2 cell with a dissociation constant (Kd) of 219 nM. The addition of histamine to suspensions of fura-2-loaded DDT1MF-2 cells elicited a rapid, transient, and stimulus concentration-dependent increase in the intracellular concentration of Ca2+ with an EC50 of 3 x 10(-5) M, which demonstrated H1 receptor specificity. Moreover, in order to evaluate in vitro contractile response of individual DDT1MF-2 cells, the degree of intracellular actin polymerization was quantified by a DNase inhibition assay. The percentage of nonpolymerized or G-actin in DDT1MF-2 cells was reduced in a histamine concentration-dependent manner with an EC50 of 1 x 10(-5) M and H1 receptor specificity. Histamine-induced actin polymerization was accompanied by changes in cell shape that were consistent with cellular contraction, as assessed by flow cytometry. The H1-type receptors of cultured DDT1MF-2 cells thus couple histamine stimulation to a variety of functional responses of smooth muscle cells.