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Effects of opioid and nonopioid analgesics on canine wheal formation and cultured human mast cell degranulation


Mast cell (MC) degranulation has been implicated in the side effect profile of a variety of clinically useful agents. Thus, after intrathecal delivery, formation of space-occupying, meningeally-derived masses may be related to local MC degranulation. We systematically characterized degranulating effects of opioid and nonopioid analgesics on cutaneous flares in the dog and in primary human MC (hMC) cultures.


Dogs were anesthetized with IV propofol and received intradermal (ID) injections (50μL). Flare diameters were measured at 30min. Drugs showing flare responses were tested after intramuscular (IM) cromolyn (10mg/kg), a MC stabilizer. Human primary MCs (human cord blood CD34+/CD45+ cells) were employed and β-hexosaminidase in cell-free supernatants were measured to assess degranulation.


A significant skin flare for several classes of agents was observed including opioids, ziconotide, ketamine, ST-91, neostigmine, adenosine, bupivacaine, lidocaine, MK-801 and 48/80. Tizanidine, fentanyl, alfentanil, gabapentin and baclofen produced no flare. Flare produced by all ID agents, except adenosine, bupivacaine and lidocaine, was reduced by cromolyn. Naloxone had no effect upon opiate or 48/80 evoked flares. In hMC studies, 48/80 resulted in a concentration-dependent release of β-hexosaminidase. The rank order of drug-induced hMC β-hexosaminidase release was similar to that for flares.


A variety of therapeutically useful drugs degranulate MCs. This action may account for side effects such as the intrathecal granuloma resulting from spinally-delivered opioids. This degranulating effect may be useful in predicting potential intrathecal toxicity in the development of novel agents.

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