Intestinal Mucosal Mast Cells: Key Modulators of Barrier Function and Homeostasis.


Laboratory of Translational Mucosal Immunology. Digestive Diseases Research Unit. Vall d'HebronInstitut de Recerca, Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital Universitario Vall d'Hebron,08035 Barcelona, Spain. [Email]


The gastrointestinal tract harbours the largest population of mast cells in the body; this highly specialised leukocyte cell type is able to adapt its phenotype and function to the microenvironment in which it resides. Mast cells react to external and internal stimuli thanks to the variety of receptors they express, and carry out effector and regulatory tasks by means of the mediators of different natures they produce. Mast cells are fundamental elements of the intestinal barrier as they regulate epithelial function and integrity, modulate both innate and adaptive mucosal immunity, and maintain neuro-immune interactions, which are key to functioning of the gut. Disruption of the intestinal barrier is associated with increased passage of luminal antigens into the mucosa, which further facilitates mucosal mast cell activation, inflammatory responses, and altered mast cell⁻enteric nerve interaction. Despite intensive research showing gut dysfunction to be associated with increased intestinal permeability and mucosal mast cell activation, the specific mechanisms linking mast cell activity with altered intestinal barrier in human disease remain unclear. This review describes the role played by mast cells in control of the intestinal mucosal barrier and their contribution to digestive diseases.


intestinal barrier function,mucosal mast cells,

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