Five sequential steps interspaced between the antigen activation of human lung fragments sensitized with IgE and the release of the chemical mediators, histamine and slow-reacting substance of anaphylaxis (SRS-A), have been delineated. The experimental design that permits this analysis is based upon the capacity to maintain the serine esterase essential to mediator release in its diisopropylphosphofluoridate (DFP)-resistant precursor state despite antigen challenge and upon the ability to arrest reversibly the reaction sequence by various manipulations. When sensitized lung fragments are challenged with antigen in the presence of DFP, a serine esterase is converted to its active DFP-inhibitable state; this conversion is prevented if antigen challenge in the presence of DFP occurs in calcium-free buffer indicating that immunologic activation of the esterase requires extracellular calcium. The fact that calcium depletion alone does not impair antigen-induced histamine release implies that prevention of esterase activation depends upon both the absence of extracellular calcium and the inactivation of any active esterase by DFP to prevent an autocatalytic feedback activation. Arresting the antigen-induced activation of the serine esterase by the combination of DFP in calcium-free buffer precludes the sequence from reaching the labile, 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG)-inhibitable, energy-requiring step, indicating that proesterase activation precedes this energy-requiring stage. The 2-DG-inhibitable step precedes a second calcium-requiring, EDTA-inhibitable stage, as EDTA prevents glucose reversal of 2-DG inhibition of antigen-challenged tissue, while the presence of 2-DG does not prevent calcium reversal of EDTA inhibition. The finding that isoproterenol prevents calcium reversal of EDTA inhibition of mediator release suggests that the inhibitory site of action of increased concentrations of cyclic AMP is coincident with or subsequent to the second calcium-requiring, EDTA-inhibitable step. Therefore, the sequence of biochemical events initiated by the interaction of antigen with tissue-fixed IgE antibodies appears to proceed from the calcium-requiring activation of a DFP-sensitive serine esterase; the further autocatalytic activation of the esterase; a 2-DG-inhibitable energy requirement; a second calcium-requiring, EDTA-inhibitable stage; and a cyclic AMP-inhibitable step to the release of histamine and SRS-A.

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