What Does Histamine Do?

As an integral part of the immune system, histamine may be involved in immune system disorders and allergies.

Sleep regulation

Histamine is released as a neurotransmitter. The cell bodies of neurons which release histamine are found in the posterior hypothalamus, in various tuberomammillary nuclei. From here, these histaminergic neurons project throughout the brain, to the cortex through the medial forebrain bundle. Histaminergic action is known to modulate sleep. Classically, antihistamines (H1 histamine receptor antagonists) produce sleep. Likewise, destruction of histamine releasing neurons, or inhibition of histamine synthesis leads to an inability to maintain vigilance. Finally, H3 receptor antagonists increase wakefulness.

It has been shown that histaminergic cells have the most wakefulness-related firing pattern of any neuronal type thus far recorded. They fire rapidly during waking, fire more slowly during periods of relaxation/tiredness and completely stop firing during REM and NREM (non-REM) sleep. Histaminergic cells can be recorded firing just before an animal shows signs of waking.

Suppressive effects

While histamine has stimulatory effects upon neurons, it also has suppressive ones that protects against the susceptibility to convulsion, drug sensitization, denervation supersensitivity, ischemic lesions and stress. It has also been suggested that histamine controls the mechanisms by which memories and learning are forgotten.

Erection and sexual function

Libido loss and erectile failure can occur following histamine (H2) antagonists such as cimetidine and ranitidine. The injection of histamine into the corpus cavernosum in men with psychogenic impotence produces full or partial erections in 74% of them. It has been suggested that H2 antagonists may cause sexual difficulties by reducing the uptake of testosterone.

Further Reading


This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Histamine" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011

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