Molecular and cellular biology of mast cells and basophils

Gianni Marone, Vincenzo Casolaro, Vincenzo Patella, Giovanni Florio, Massimo Triggiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


In all mammalian species investigated so far, mast cells and basophils are the only cells that synthesize histamine and express plasma membrane receptors that bind IgE with high affinity (FcεRI). Human basophils and mast cells derive from distinct precursors that originate in the bone marrow and fetal liver and probably circulate in peripheral blood. There is extensive evidence that mast cells and basophils and their mediators are primary effectors of allergic inflammation. Immunologically activated human basophils release two cytokines: IL-4 and IL-13. Expression of several cytokines has been documented in a number of experimental models of human and rodent mast cells. However, to date few studies have analyzed the mechanisms of gene expression in human FcεRI+ cells. Some of these studies imply a role for NFAT and GATA family members in the IgE-mediated activation of cytokine gene transcription in basophils and mast cells. Studies of human basaphils and mast-cells isolated from different anatomic sites have established the different profiles of eicosanoids released by these cells. Recently, the characterization of arachidonic acid pools and the identification of novel enzymes involved in arachidonate remodeling and mobilization clarified in part how eicosanoid productions is regulated in mast cells and basophils. In addition to histamine, human mast cell secretory granules contain the neutral proteases tryptase, chymase and carboxypeptidase that possess several biochemical properties. In particular, tryptase may play a role as a fibrogenic factor and chymase might convert angiotensin I to angiotensin II. Mast cells are present in human heart and in human coronary arteries raising the possibility that local activation of cardiac mast cells might contribute to certain cardiovascular diseases. Recent evidence also suggests that mast cells and basophils can play a role during viral and bacterial infections. It is now evident that in man these two cells not only participate in inflammation associated with allergic disease, but also in chronic and fibrotic disorders affecting several organs and in host defense against bacterial and viral infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-217
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Archives of Allergy and Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1997


  • Basophils
  • Chymase
  • Histamine
  • Leukotriene C
  • Mast cells
  • Tryptase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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