L-histidine decarboxylase as a probe in studies on histamine

Takehiko Watanabe, Hiroshi Ohtsu

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Because the Falck-Hillarp formaldehyde fluorescence method, which was superbly applied to identify catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurons, is not applicable to histamine, the first author (T.W.) developed an antibody to L-histidine decarboxylase (HDC) for identification of the histaminergic neuron system in the brain. The anti-HDC antibody was of great use for mapping the location and distribution of this histaminergic neuron system. (S)-α-fluoromethylhistidine, a specific and potent irreversible inhibitor of HDC, was also very useful in studies on functions of the neuron system. The activity of HDC is increased by various agents, treatments, and physiological conditions. We found new compounds that increased HDC activity (i.e., tetradecanoylphobol acetate (TPA), other tumor promoters, and staphylococcal enterotoxin A); and using mast cell-deficient mutant (W/W) mice, we obtained evidence that this increase occurred in macrophages. To further characterize the mechanism of increases in HDC activity, the second author (H.O.) cloned human HDC cDNA and a human HDC gene. In studies on the regulation mechanism of the HDC gene, which is expressed only in limited types of cells such as mast cells, enterochromaffin-like cells in the stomach, cells in the tuberomammillary nucleus of the brain, and macrophages, CpG islands in the promoter region of the HDC gene were found to be demethylated in cells expressing the gene, whereas they are methylated in other cells that do not express the HDC gene. In collaboration with many other researchers, we developed HDC knockout mice. The resulting research is producing a lot of interesting findings in our laboratory as well as in others. In summary, HDC has been and will be useful in studies on functions of histamine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-376
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Record
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Nov


  • Brain
  • Gene expression
  • Histamine
  • Knockout mice
  • L-histidine decarboxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Chemistry


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