Platelet-activating factor (PAF) causes wheal and flare responses which are abrogated by H1-antihistamines giving rise to the hypothesis that PAF-induced wheal development is secondary to histamine release from dermal mast cells. But is this hypothesis correct? Wheal and flare responses were induced by intradermal injection of PAF, codeine and histamine in 14 healthy volunteers. Dermal histamine and PGD2 contractions were measured using microdialysis. PAF, unlike histamine and codeine, did not cause a statistically significant rise in mean histamine levels with ten persons showing negligible histamine release. Codeine caused a significant but variable histamine release, ranging from 29 to 282 ng/ml. Codeine, but not PAF or histamine, caused a small but statistically significant release of PGD2. Wheal and flare reactions in human skin induced by PAF are not associated with histamine release and, therefore, appear to be independent of mast cell degranulation.
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