Histamine is an organic compound, more specifically a biogenic amine, involved in several physiological processes. It plays a role in the gastrointestinal tract, acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and has a function in the immune system.
Histamine is produced by decarboxylation of the amino acid L-histidine, a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme L-histidine decarboxylase. After synthesis of histamine, it is either directly stored in certain tissues or directly degraded and rendered inactive by methylation to 1,4-methylhistamine (catalyzed by histamine-N-methyltransferase, HNMT).
The properties of histamine were first described in 1910 by English neuroscientist Henry Hallett Dale. He and George Barger isolated histamine from ergot (Claviceps purpurea), a fungus that grows on plants.
Histamine is found primarily in a number of protein-rich, animal foods (such as eggs, fish and fish products). It is also found in foods obtained through microbial and biochemical processes, such as certain cheeses, ham, sausage, sauerkraut and certain yeast extracts. Histamine is not broken down during cooking, so it can also be present in cooked foods.
Histamine is found in a number of places in the body. Most histamine does not occur freely in the cytosol, but is found in special vesicles in mast cells (mast cells) and in basophilic granulocytes. Mast cells are specialized cells located in tissues that are in contact with the outside world, i.e., in the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. In the body, histamine is released from mast cells and basophilic granulocytes in immunoglobulin (IgE)-induced allergic reactions.
Some drugs, such as morphine and succinylcholine, can displace histamine from storage vesicles. This does not necessarily involve an allergic reaction.
In addition, histamine occurs in fairly large amounts in the brain, where it acts as a neurotransmitter. The highest concentration of histamine is in the lungs. Histamine regulates sleep processes, among other things. Certain antihistamines (substances that counteract the action of histamine) are known to have sedative effects. Destruction of histamine-producing neurons or inhibition of histamine synthesis will cause one to cease to be alert in unfamiliar situations. On the contrary, histamine leads one to be highly vigilant and alert in such situations.
In the gastrointestinal system, histamine is involved in a number of physiological processes, such as stomach acid production.
In the body, histamine acts on four different receptors, affecting, among other things, the diameter of blood vessels, the permeability of blood vessels to plasma, stomach acid production and indirectly increasing adrenaline production. The histamine-induced effects can only be partially controlled with antihistamines.
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