Airway damage secondary to eosinophil activation is thought to contribute to the development of asthma. Using the fluorescent dye FURA-2 to measure the concentration of cytosolic calcium, we found that supernatants from anti-IgE-stimulated human lung mast cells increased cytosolic calcium in human eosinophils. We then examined the major mast cell mediators (histamine, PGD2, platelet-activating factor (PAF), eosinophil chemotactic factor of anaphylaxis (ECF-A), leukotriene (LT)C4 and LTB4) for their ability to increase cytosolic calcium in eosinophils. We found that both PAF (5 x 10(-9) to 5 x 10(-6) M) and PGD2 (two of five donors responsive at 1 x 10(-9) M) were potent stimuli for calcium mobilization. LTB4 (10(-8), 10(-7) M) and histamine were also active, although higher concentrations of histamine were required to see a response (3 x 10(-7) to 10(-5) M). LTC4, val-ECF-A, and ala-ECF-A were inactive. The effects of PGD2 and histamine were specific for eosinophils, although LTB4 and PAF increased calcium in both neutrophils and eosinophils. The histamine-induced increase in intracellular calcium was not blocked by the H1 or H2 antagonists pyrilamine or cimetidine (10(-4) M), respectively; however, the response to 10(-6) M histamine was completely blocked by the specific H3 antagonist thioperamide (10(-6) M). To evaluate the relative contribution of these stimulatory mast cell mediators on the calcium mobilizing activity in supernatants from anti-IgE-stimulated human lung mast cell (HLMC), we examined the effect of supernatants from HLMC pretreated with indomethacin and/or the 5-lipoxygenase pathway inhibitor MK886. These supernatants were added to FURA-2-loaded eosinophils that had been preincubated with thioperamide and/or the PAF antagonist WEB-2086. We found that the increase in eosinophil calcium in response to supernatants from anti-IgE-stimulated-HLMC was totally inhibited only when the mast cells were challenged in the presence of indomethacin and MK886, and the eosinophils were preincubated with thioperamide. WEB-2086 had little effect. When we examined the effect of these mediators on eosinophil secretory function, we found that PGD2 (not histamine) primed eosinophils for enhanced release of LTC4 in response to the calcium ionophore A23187. We conclude that the activation of eosinophils by PGD2 and other mast cell products may contribute to airways inflammation that is characteristic of asthma.