Bradykinin and the pathophysiology of angioedema

Massimo Cugno, Jürg Nussberger, Marco Cicardi, Angelo Agostoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Angioedema has different causes and different clinical presentations. Some types of angioedema may be mediated by bradykinin. We measured plasma levels of bradykinin-(1-9)nonapeptide by radioimmunoassay after high-performance liquid chromatography in patients with different types of angioedema during acute attacks and/or in remission, i.e. hereditary C1-inhibitor deficiency, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor treatment, idiopathic non histaminergic and responders to antihistamines. Eleven patients with the deficiency of C1-inhibitor had very high levels of bradykinin during acute attacks of angioedema (18.0-90.0 pM) (normal range 0.2-7.1 pM). In three patients with history of ACE inhibitor-related angioedema, plasma bradykinin was high during ACE inhibitor treatment (62.0, 8.9 and 27.0 pM) and in a fourth patient was 47.0 pM during an acute attack and decreased by 93% to 3.2 pM after withdrawal of the ACE inhibitor. The patient with idiopathic angioedema, during an acute attack involving the right arm, had high levels of bradykinin in the venous blood refluent from the angioedematous arm (20.0 pM) while in the contralateral arm bradykinin levels were normal (6.6 pM), similarly to what we previously observed in cases of brachial angioedema due to C1-inhibitor deficiency. The four patients with angioedema responsive to antihistamines had normal levels of bradykinin even during acute attacks (5.7, 3.4, 4.7 and 1.2 pM). In one of these patients who had a brachial angioedema, bradykinin levels were normal in the venous blood refluent from both arms. Bradykinin is involved in hereditary C1-inhibitor deficiency angioedema, in ACE inhibitor-related angioedema, and in idiopathic non-histaminergic angioedema, while bradykinin is not related to allergen-dependent or idiopathic angioedema that are responsive to antihistamines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Immunopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003


  • Angioedema
  • Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors
  • C1-inhibitor deficiency
  • Histamine
  • Plasma bradykinin
  • Urticaria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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