The basophil granulocyte is a circulating cell constituting less than 1% of the blood leukocytes. It is believed to take part in inflammatory reactions of the skin and airways and in particular it is involved in the late phase reaction of IgE-allergic reactions and diseases such as asthma, rhinitis, and urticaria. In spite of great similarity between basophils and mast cells there are also differences in regard to stimulation and secretion of mediators. Nevertheless the basophil serves as a model for study of allergic reactions. Experimental models for study of basophil biology are the basophil histamine release test and the basophil adhesion assay. Various endogenous stimuli have been used to characterize these models with respect to the signal transduction mechanisms involved in degranulation, mediator release and adhesion. Moreover, the basophil histamine release assay allows for the differentiation of IgE- and non-IgE-mediated responses. Drugs and experimental substances known to inhibit basophils functions are mentioned and their applicability for development of anti-allergic therapy is discussed. A number of drugs and experimental substances are known to activate basophils: opioids, X-ray contrast media, newer protein-based drugs and food proteins. In conclusion the basophil may be used as a screening tool both for anti-allergic treatments and for potential allergic or allergy-like side effects of new drugs.
Keywords: basophil, histamine, histamine release, degranulation, chemotaxis
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