Mast cell – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: March 9, 2015 at 10:41 am

A mast cell (also known as a mastocyte or a labrocyte[1]) is derived from the myeloid stem cell and a part of the immune system that contains many granules rich in histamine and heparin. Although best known for their role in allergy and anaphylaxis, mast cells play an important protective role as well, being intimately involved in wound healing and defense against pathogens.[2]

The mast cell is very similar in both appearance and function to the basophil, another type of white blood cell. They differ in that mast cells are tissue resident, e.g., in mucosal tissues, while basophils are found in the blood.[3]

Mast cells were first described by Paul Ehrlich in his 1878 doctoral thesis on the basis of their unique staining characteristics and large granules. These granules also led him to the incorrect belief that they existed to nourish the surrounding tissue, so he named them Mastzellen (from German Mast, meaning "fattening", as of animals).[4][5] They are now considered to be part of the immune system.

Mast cells are very similar to basophil granulocytes (a class of white blood cells) in blood. Both are granulated cells that contain histamine and heparin, an anticoagulant. Both cells also release histamine upon binding to immunoglobulin E.[6] These similarities have led many to speculate that mast cells are basophils that have "homed in" on tissues. Furthermore they share a common precursor in bone marrow expressing the CD34 molecule. Basophils leave the bone marrow already mature, whereas the mast cell circulates in an immature form, only maturing once in a tissue site. The site an immature mast cell settles in probably determines its precise characteristics.[2] The first in vitro differentiation and growth of a pure population of mouse mast cells has been carried out using conditioned medium derived from concanavalin A-stimulated splenocytes.[7] Later, it was discovered that T cell-derived interleukin 3 was the component present in the conditioned media that was required for mast cell differentiation and growth.[8]

Mast cells in rodents are classically divided into two subtypes: connective tissue-type mast cells and mucosal mast cells. The activities of the latter are dependent on T-cells.[9]

Mast cells are present in most tissues characteristically surrounding blood vessels and nerves, and are especially prominent near the boundaries between the outside world and the internal milieu, such as the skin, mucosa of the lungs, and digestive tract, as well as the mouth, conjunctiva, and nose.[2]

Mast cells play a key role in the inflammatory process. When activated, a mast cell rapidly releases its characteristic granules and various hormonal mediators into the interstitium. Mast cells can be stimulated to degranulate by direct injury (e.g., physical or chemical [such as opioids, alcohols, and certain antibiotics such as polymyxins]), cross-linking of immunoglobulin E (IgE) receptors, or complement proteins.[2]

Mast cells express a high-affinity receptor (FcRI) for the Fc region of IgE, the least-abundant member of the antibodies. This receptor is of such high affinity that binding of IgE molecules is in essence irreversible. As a result, mast cells are coated with IgE, which is produced by plasma cells (the antibody-producing cells of the immune system). IgE molecules, like all antibodies, are specific to one particular antigen.

In allergic reactions, mast cells remain inactive until an allergen binds to IgE already in association with the cell (see above). Other membrane activation events can either prime mast cells for subsequent degranulation or act in synergy with FcRI signal transduction.[10] In general, allergens are proteins or polysaccharides. The allergen binds to the antigen-binding sites, which are situated on the variable regions of the IgE molecules bound to the mast cell surface. It appears that binding of two or more IgE molecules (cross-linking) is required to activate the mast cell. The clustering of the intracellular domains of the cell-bound Fc receptors, which are associated with the cross-linked IgE molecules, causes a complex sequence of reactions inside the mast cell that lead to its activation. Although this reaction is most well-understood in terms of allergy, it appears to have evolved as a defense system against intestinal worm infestations (tapeworms, etc.)[citation needed].

The molecules released into the extracellular environment include:[2]

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Mast cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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