• apoptosis;
  • brain development;
  • cerebral cortex;
  • histamine receptors antagonists;
  • neural precursors;
  • neurogenesis


Histamine has neurotransmitter/neuromodulator functions in the adult brain, but its role during CNS development has been elusive. We studied histamine effects on proliferation, cell death and differentiation of neuroepithelial stem cells from rat cerebral cortex in vitro. RT-PCR and Western blot experiments showed that proliferating and differentiated cells express histamine H1, H2 and H3 receptors. Treatments with histamine concentrations (100 nM–1 mM) caused significant increases in cell numbers without affecting Nestin expression. Cell proliferation was evaluated by BrdU incorporation; histamine caused a significant increase dependent on H2 receptor activation. Apoptotic cell death during proliferation was significantly decreased at all histamine concentrations, and cell death was promoted in a concentration-dependent manner by histamine in differentiated cells. Immunocytochemistry studies showed that histamine increased 3-fold the number of neurons after differentiation, mainly by activation of H1 receptor, and also significantly decreased the glial (astrocytic) cell proportion, when compared to control conditions. In summary, histamine increases cell number during proliferative conditions, and has a neuronal-differentiating action on neural stem cells, suggesting that the elevated histamine concentration reported during development might play a role in cerebrocortical neurogenesis, by activation of H2 receptors to promote proliferation of neural precursors, and favoring neuronal fate by H1-mediated stimulation.