Mast cells act as sensors to assist keep away from dangerous antigens


The perform of mast cells, that are a part of the immune system, remains to be a thriller. Scientists on the German Most cancers Analysis Middle (DKFZ) have now proven in mice: mast cells perform as a sensor that alerts the animals to keep away from antigens, together with dangerous allergens, and thereby defend themselves from health-threatening inflammatory reactions. The findings had been revealed within the journal Nature.

Mast cells are discovered primarily in tissues that separate the inside and outside worlds of the physique, such because the epithelia of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs. Throughout the tissues, mast cells typically reside close to nerve endings. Mast cells are well-known to individuals affected by allergy symptoms as a result of they secrete messenger substances similar to histamine, which trigger annoying to health-threatening allergic signs. These signs happen when mast cells are activated by IgE class antibodies throughout repeated antigen contact.

Why mast cells and IgE exist in any respect has not but been conclusively defined.” 

Hans-Reimer Rodewald, DKFZ immunologist

The DKFZ immunologist and his workforce have now been in a position to present for the primary time in mice, in a mixture of behavioral experiments and immunological research, that mast cells act like a sensor that helps to keep away from contact with allergens

No antigen avoidance with out mast cells and IgE

The DKFZ researchers immunized mice with the allergen ovalbumin, a protein element of hen egg white. They then gave the animals the free alternative of preferring both regular or egg white-containing ingesting water. Immunized animals averted the egg white-enriched water, whereas their non-immunized conspecifics clearly most popular it. A big proportion of the immunized animals averted the egg white-containing water already in the future after immunization, some mice even after the primary sip.

Nonetheless, when the scientists carried out this behavioral take a look at with mice that genetically lack mast cells, each immunized and non-immunized animals most popular the egg white-containing water. Mice genetically unable to provide IgE additionally confirmed no avoidance conduct. Thus, each elements – mast cells and IgE – are answerable for antigen avoidance.

When the immunized mice had no alternative as a result of the egg white answer was instilled in them, the animals developed irritation within the abdomen and small gut. “The avoidance conduct mediated by mast cells apparently protects the animals from dangerous immune reactions,” explains Thomas Plum, one of many first authors.

How do mast cells “discuss” to the mind?

An vital open query for the scientists was now: How can mast cells, as a element of the immune system, affect conduct? In what methods do immune cells “discuss” to the mind? The scientists examined quite a lot of biologically lively substances launched by mast cells. These embody leukotrienes, pro-inflammatory messengers recognized to activate sensory nerves. If the researchers blocked leukotriene synthesis, the immunized mice now not confirmed the identical consequence in avoiding egg white. Leukotrienes due to this fact look like not less than partly concerned in avoidance conduct. Additional immunological and neurobiological experiments are wanted sooner or later to establish the nerve connections via which the mast cell sign is reported to the mind.

“Within the gut, lungs or pores and skin, immune reactions in opposition to non-infectious antigens can happen because of so-called barrier problems, permeability of the tissues from the surface to the within. Within the case of allergy, we name such antigens allergens. Whether or not these substances are harmful or not, it will be important for the organism to keep away from their additional consumption so as to stop inflammatory illnesses. That is an evolutionary benefit and at last a conclusive clarification of the physiological position of mast cells and IgE,” Rodewald summarizes the outcomes.

Whether or not mast cells additionally contribute to the avoidance of dangerous antigens in people have to be adressed in additional research.


German Most cancers Analysis Middle (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ)

Journal reference:

Plum, T., et al. (2023). Mast cells hyperlink immune sensing to antigen-avoidance behaviour. Nature.


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