In this study we investigated the effects of long wave ultraviolet light (UVA) and various doses of protoporphyrin (PP) on the release of histamine from rat peritoneal and cutaneous mast cells. We also correlated these results with morphologic characteristics and viability of the cells. PP at a dose of 30 ng/ml plus UVA-induced negligible histamine release from rat peritoneal mast cells (RPMC), but was able to suppress the ability of the cells to release histamine in response to subsequent exposure to the calcium ionophore A23187, compound 48/80, or the combination of Ag and IgE. This functional change was associated with an increase in cell size, and cell lysis that gradually occurred during 24 h in culture. PP at a dose of 3 ng/ml plus UVA also significantly inhibited secretogogue-induced histamine release from rat peritoneal mast cells, but this dose was not associated with significant changes in morphology or viability. These various effects of PP plus UVA were also observed with mast cell preparations obtained by the enzymatic dispersion of rat skin. The suppression of secretogogue-induced histamine release in rat peritoneal mast cells treated with PP (3 ng/ml) and UVA could not be reversed by culturing the cells in the dark for 24 h in the absence of PP. Unlike the direct cytotoxic histamine releasing action of high doses of PP plus UVA, the suppressive effect of low PP doses could not be inhibited by catalase, but could be reduced by the absence of calcium. Our results indicate that PP plus UVA has dual effects on mast cells, apparently involving distinct mechanisms. This implies the possibility that PP and UVA at appropriate doses could be used in photochemotherapy of mast cell-mediated skin diseases.

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