Background: Itch is a common symptom that can greatly diminish quality of life. Histamine is a potent endogenous pruritogen, and while antihistamines are often the first-line treatment for itch, in conditions like chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU), many patients remain symptomatic while receiving maximal doses. Mechanisms that drive resistance to antihistamines are poorly defined. Objectives: Signaling of the alarmin cytokine IL-33 in sensory neurons is postulated to drive chronic itch by inducing neuronal sensitization to pruritogens. Thus, we sought to determine if IL-33 can augment histamine-induced (histaminergic) itch. Methods: Itch behavior was assessed in response to histamine after IL-33 or saline administration. Various stimuli and conditional and global knockout mice were utilized to dissect cellular mechanisms. Multiple existing transcriptomic data sets were evaluated, including single-cell RNA sequencing of human and mouse skin, microarrays of isolated mouse mast cells at steady state and after stimulation with IL-33, and microarrays of skin biopsy samples from subjects with CSU and healthy controls. Results: IL-33 amplifies histaminergic itch independent of IL-33 signaling in sensory neurons. Mast cells are the top expressors of the IL-33 receptor in both human and mouse skin. When stimulated by IL-33, mouse mast cells significantly increase IL-13 levels. Enhancement of histaminergic itch by IL-33 relies on a mast cell– and IL-13–dependent mechanism. IL-33 receptor expression is increased in lesional skin of subjects with CSU compared to healthy controls. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that IL-33 signaling may be a key driver of histaminergic itch in mast cell–associated pruritic conditions such as CSU.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-859.e3
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Chronic spontaneous urticaria
  • IL-13
  • IL-33
  • histamine
  • itch
  • mast cell
  • neuroimmunology


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