Author(s): Brown JM, Wilson TM, Metcalfe DD
Mast cells have long been recognized for their role in the genesis of allergic inflammation; and more recently for their participation in innate and acquired immune responses. Mast cells reside within tissues including the skin and mucosal membranes, which interface with the external environment; as well as being found within vascularized tissues next to nerves, blood vessels and glandular structures. Mast cells have the capability of reacting both within minutes and over hours to specific stimuli, with local and systemic effects. Mast cells express the high affinity IgE receptor (FcepsilonRI) and upon aggregation of FcepsilonRI by allergen-specific IgE, mast cells release and generate biologically active preformed and newly synthesized mediators which are involved in many aspects of allergic inflammation. While mast cells have been well documented to be essential for acute allergic reactions, more recently the importance of mast cells in reacting through pattern recognition receptors in innate immune responses has become recognized. Moreover, as our molecular understanding of the mast cell has evolved, novel targets for modulation have been identified with promising therapeutic potential.