Author(s): Galli SJ, Kalesnikoff J, Grimbaldeston MA, Piliponsky AM, Williams CM
This review focuses on recent progress in our understanding of how mast cells can contribute to the initiation, development, expression, and regulation of acquired immune responses, both those associated with IgE and those that are apparently expressed independently of this class of Ig. We emphasize findings derived from in vivo studies in mice, particularly those employing genetic approaches to influence mast cell numbers and/or to alter or delete components of pathways that can regulate mast cell development, signaling, or function. We advance the hypothesis that mast cells not only can function as proinflammatory effector cells and drivers of tissue remodeling in established acquired immune responses, but also may contribute to the initiation and regulation of such responses. That is, we propose that mast cells can also function as immunoregulatory cells. Finally, we show that the notion that mast cells have primarily two functional configurations, off (or resting) or on (or activated for extensive mediator release), markedly oversimplifies reality. Instead, we propose that mast cells are "tunable," by both genetic and environmental factors, such that, depending on the circumstances, the cell can be positioned phenotypically to express a wide spectrum of variation in the types, kinetics, and/or magnitude of its secretory functions.