Serum total tryptase levels are increased in patients with active chronic urticaria


M. Ferrer, Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Clínica Universidad de Navarra, Pio XII, 36. 31008-Pamplona, Spain.


Background We have demonstrated previously mast cell histamine release upon incubation with chronic urticaria (CU) sera, presumably by degranulation.

Objective To explore total and mature tryptase in order to assess whether any increase in total tryptase levels is due in part to mast cell degranulation or to mast cell burden. We also wanted to explore differences between the autoimmune groups called idiopathic (serum unable to activate basophils), and to correlate total and mature tryptase levels with different urticaria features.

Methods We measured total and mature tryptase serum levels in 81 CU patients, 16 atopic donors and 21 healthy control sera. We assessed autoimmunity by measuring the CD63 expression in normal basophil donors upon incubation with CU sera.

Results We found significantly higher levels of total tryptase in the sera of CU patients (6.6 ±4.1 μg/L) than in sera from healthy non-atopic subjects (4.4 ±2.8 μg/L) and from atopic subjects (4.5 ±1.7 μg/L). Mature tryptase levels were undetectable (<1 ng/mL). Total tryptase levels in the autoimmune urticaria group were significantly higher (9.8 ±5.4 μg/L) than the idiopathic urticaria group (4.4 ±2.2 μg/L). A significant difference in total tryptase was found between symptomatic patients (7.3 ±4.1 μg/L) compared with asymptomatic ones (5.7 ±4.1 μg/L) at the time of venesection. No difference was found in mature tryptase levels either.

Conclusion Total elevated tryptase levels are not accompanied by an elevated mature tryptase levels, as might be expected if the serum levels reflected mast cell degranulation.

Cite this as: M. Ferrer, J. M. Nuñez-Córdoba, E. Luquin, C. E. Grattan, J. M. De la Borbolla, M. L. Sanz, L. B. Schwartz, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 1760–1766.