The aim of this study was to determine whether the increase in cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in response to antigen (aggregated ovalbumin) on IgE-primed 2H3 cells was sufficient to account for exocytosis. When the [Ca2+]i responses to antigen and the Ca2+ ionophore A23187 were compared, A23187 was much less effective at releasing histamine at equivalent [Ca2+]i increases, and little or no stimulated histamine release occurred with A23187 concentrations that matched the [Ca2+]i response to antigen concentrations that stimulated maximal histamine release. The [Ca2+]i response to antigen is not, therefore, sufficient to account for exocytosis, although extracellular Ca2+ is necessary to initiate both the [Ca2+]i response and histamine release: the antigen must generate an additional, unidentified, signal that is required for exocytosis. To determine whether this signal was the activation of protein kinase C, the effects of the phorbol ester 12-0-tetradecanoyl phorbol 13-acetate (TPA) on the responses to antigen were examined. TPA blocked the antigen-induced [Ca2+]i response and the release of inositol phosphates but had little effect on histamine release and did not stimulate exocytosis by itself. The unidentified signal from the antigen is therefore distinct from the activation of protein kinase C and is generated independently of the [Ca2+]i response or the release of inositol phosphates. Taken together with other data that imply that there is very little activation of protein kinase C by antigen when the rate of histamine release is maximal, it is concluded that the normal exocytotic response to antigen requires the synergistic action of the [Ca2+]i signal together with an unidentified signal that is not mediated by protein kinase C.

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