Histamine-releasing factor or HRF is a collective term used for a heterogeneous group of factors with different modes of action. The current review is focussed on IgE-dependent HRF that require the presence of certain types of IgE (designated IgE+) to induce histamine release. IgE+ might be a structurally different IgE molecule, or, alternatively, autoreactive IgE. A subgroup of IgE-dependent HRF does not bind to IgE, such as cloned HRF p23. This factor turned out to be a basophil-priming cytokine. Alternatively IgE-dependent HRF might be an autoallergen. Several groups demonstrated IgE antibodies to human proteins. However, not all IgE autoallergen-containing extracts induce histamine release of appropriately sensitized basophils. In culture supernatants of human mononuclear cells an autoallergenic activity (Agmn) is found, but no binding to IgE+ was found yet. Agmn might be an autoallergen, since it is cross-reactive with a grass pollen allergen in the stripped basophil assay.
IgE-dependent HRF and IgE+ may play a role in the late allergic reaction (LAR). However, IgE+ responsiveness to Agmn (IgEmn+) was not required for a bronchial LAR. IgEmn+ is associated with chronic allergic disease, since the prevalence of IgEmn+ is high in the serum of severe asthmatics and atopic dermatitis patients. Our hypothesis is that exogenous allergens induce IgE antibodies cross-reactive with an endogenous protein. During a LAR, these endogenous proteins are released and the subsequent IgE-mediated reaction prolongs and aggravates the allergic and/or asthmatic symptoms.
In conclusion, HRF is a confusing term since it is used for different activities. It might be better to avoid this terminology on and just describe the activity of the factors. Autoallergenic activity is likely to explain most, if not all, IgE-dependent activity.