Histamine covalently bound to glutaraldehyde-activated ferritin was prepared as either monomers or as small aggregates of approximately 0.05 to 0.15 micrometer Diam, suitable for electron microscopic detection of histamine cellular binding sites. The histamine-ferritin conjugates (MF) maintain the histamine capability to induce the opening of endothelial junctions in venules. To investigate the distribution of histamine receptors in the vascular endothelium, monomers or aggregates of MF were perfused in situ (mice), and various vascular beds, particularly that of the diaphragm, were fixed and processed for electron microscopy. The conjugate was preferentially bound on restricted areas of luminal endothelial cell plasmalemma especially in regions rich in filaments, and near the junctions between endothelial cells. The density of histamine binding sites was characteristically high in venules; it occurred to a much lesser extent in arterioles, veins, and muscular arteries whereas capillaries and aorta showed the lowest values. A similar distribution was obtained after perfusion of H1 or H2 receptor agonists coupled to ferritin (2-pyridylethylamine-ferritin [PF], or 4-methylhistamine-ferritin [MF], respectively). The binding specificity was assessed through control experiments with either native or activated ferritin or by competition with histamine. The findings suggest that histamine receptors are largely represented in the cell membrane of the vascular endothelium, particularly in venules. Experiments using specific H1 and H2 receptor agonists (PF and MF) and antagonists (mepyramine and cimetidine) indicate that the venular endothelium contains mainly H2 receptors.

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