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N Engl J Med. 1987 Jun 25;316(26):1622-6.

Tryptase levels as an indicator of mast-cell activation in systemic anaphylaxis and mastocytosis.


Better methods are needed to assess mast-cell activation in vivo and to distinguish the activation of mast cells from that of basophils. Tryptase, a neutral protease selectively concentrated in the secretory granules of human mast cells (but not basophils), is released by mast cells together with histamine and serves as a marker of mast-cell activation. In 17 patients with systemic mastocytosis, concentrations of tryptase in plasma were linearly related to those of histamine (P less than 0.01). Eleven of the 17 patients had tryptase levels of 4 to 88 ng per milliliter, indicating ongoing mast-cell activation. In each of six patients who experienced corresponding anaphylactic reactions after penicillin, aspirin, or melon ingestion, a wasp sting, exercise, or antilymphocyte globulin injection, tryptase levels in serum ranged from 9 to 75 ng per milliliter, indicating mast-cell activation during each of these events. In contrast, serum tryptase levels were less than 5 ng per milliliter in all patients presenting with myocardial disease (n = 8, 6 with hypotension) or sepsis (n = 6, 3 with hypotension) and in the controls (n = 20). One patient had a myocardial infarction after anaphylaxis in response to a wasp sting and an elevated tryptase level of 25 ng per milliliter. Thus, the plasma or serum tryptase level is a diagnostic correlate of mast-cell-related events.

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