Direct and indirect action modes of acetylcholine in cholinergic urticaria
Cholinergic urticaria (CholU) manifests small, itchy and/or painful wheals occurring upon perspiration and mechanically involving acetylcholine (Ach). Although a considerable number of studies have been conducted, the pathomechanisms underlying perspiration-associated release of histamine remain to be elucidated. We have proposed that CholU can be categorized into two major subtypes: Ach-indirectly induced, sweat allergic type and Ach-directly induced, depressed sweating type. In the former
... . In the former type, Ach evokes perspiration, and some sweat antigen(s) leaking from the sweat ducts to the dermis may stimulate mast cells to release histamine. In this scenario, the ducts might be damaged or obstructed for sweat leakage, and patients frequently exhibit positive autologous sweat skin test, representing "sweat allergy (hypersensitivity)". On the other hand, the latter Ach-mast cell directly interacting type, typically seen as "CholU with anhidrosis and/or hypohidrosis (CUAH)", eccrine sweat gland epithelial cells lack cholinergic receptor M3 expression. The expression of cholinergic receptors is completely absent in the anhidrotic areas and only slightly expressed in the hypohidrotic areas. In the hypohidrotic area, where pinpoint wheal occurs, it is hypothesized that released Ach cannot be completely trapped by cholinergic receptors of eccrine glands and overflows to the adjacent mast cells, leading to wheal formation. Thus, sweat allergy is not a requirement in this depressed sweating type. Although some additional complications, such as angioedema, anaphylaxis, and cold urticaria, have been documented, these two types represent the modes of action of Ach in this enigmatic urticaria.