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Immunopharmacology of Mast Cells

  • M. K. Church
  • R. C. Benyon
  • L. S. Clegg
  • S. T. Holgate
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 87 / 1)

Abstract

The mast cell was first described by Paul EHrlich in 1876, as a tissue fixed cell containing many granules which exhibited metachromasia when exposed to basic dyes such as toluidine blue. This histochemical characteristic indicates the presence of the highly acidic proteoglycan, heparin, one of the many preformed chemical mast cell mediators which are secreted in response to cell activation. At the turn of the century, the structural elucidation of histamine (WIndaus and VOgt 1907), its association with the mast cell (BEst et al. 1927) and its release following anaphylactic reactions in animal models (DAle 1910) established a role for the mast cell in mediating the type 1 or immediate hypersensitivity response associated with allergic reactions. This type of immunological reaction has been implicated in the pathogenesis of skin diseases such as eczema and urticaria. Indeed, the skin has been used as the primary site at which to undertake allergen testing, in the form of intradermal or prick tests, and into which allergens may be introduced in hyposensitisation treatment. Apart from the immediate hypersensitivity reaction involving the reaginic antibody IgE, mast cells play a contributory role in the defence against neoplasia (GOTO et al. 1984), in regulating fibroblast growth and maturation (GUPTA 1970; KAWANAMI et al. 1985) and in the elimination of nematode parasites (WElls 1977). The recognition of a wider role for the mast cell in the pathogenesis of human disease has stimulated renewed interest in this cell. As in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, the potential importance of mast cells in human skin is reflected by the large numbers that are present in this tissue. Because of the relative inaccessibility of tissue mast cells, much of the knowledge that has been gained about mast cell structure and function has been derived from studies of rat peritoneal mast cells, which can be recovered in large numbers and purified to homogeneity. Recently, however, the use of a variety of enzyme digestion techniques has enabled mast cells from other sources to be dispersed. These techniques have provided overwhelming evidence that mast cells from different species, and even from different sites within the same species, exhibit heterogeneity with respect to both structure and function (CHURCH et al. 1982; BEnyon et al. 1987; LOwman et al. 1987). Conclusions drawn from studies of mast cells of one particular animal or body site may not, therefore, be applicable to mast cells of another species or site.

Keywords

Mast Cell Allergy Clin Immunol Human Mast Cell Mucosal Mast Cell Mast Cell Granule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. K. Church
  • R. C. Benyon
  • L. S. Clegg
  • S. T. Holgate

There are no affiliations available

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