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Keywords:

  • basophil;
  • CD203c;
  • CD63;
  • chronic urticaria;
  • releasability

Summary

Background  Basophils and mast cells are the main target cells in chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU). Besides the basopenia, intrinsic defects of the anti-IgE cross-linking signalling pathway of basophils have been described in CIU.

Objectives  We sought to investigate the profile of expression of activation markers on basophils of patients with CIU and to explore the effect of interleukin (IL)-3 priming upon anti-IgE cross-linking stimuli through expression of activation markers and basophil histamine releasability.

Methods  Evaluation of the surface expression of FcεRIα, CD63, CD203c and CD123 on whole blood basophils of patients with CIU undergoing autologous serum skin test (ASST) was performed by flow cytometry. The effect of pretreatment with IL-3 in the anti-IgE response was analysed by the expression of basophil activation markers and histamine release using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results  Blood basophils of patients with CIU were reduced in number and displayed increased surface expression of FcεRIα, which was positively correlated with the IgE serum levels. Upregulation of expression of both surface markers CD203c and CD63 was verified on basophils of patients with CIU, regardless of ASST response. High expression of IL-3 receptor on basophils was detected only in ASST+ patients with CIU. Pretreatment with IL-3 upregulated CD203c expression concomitantly with the excreting function of blood basophils and induced a quick hyper-responsiveness to anti-IgE cross-linking on basophils of patients with CIU compared with healthy controls.

Conclusions  Basophils of patients with CIU showed an activated profile, possibly due to an in vivo priming. Functionally, basophils have high responsiveness to IL-3 stimulation, thereby suggesting that defects in the signal transduction pathway after IgE cross-linking stimuli are recoverable in subjects with chronic urticaria.