IMR Press / JIN / Volume 20 / Issue 1 / DOI: 10.31083/j.jin.2021.01.313
Open Access Review
The role of mast cells in the gut and brain
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1 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Perugia, 06126 Perugia, Italy
J. Integr. Neurosci. 2021, 20(1), 185–196;
Submitted: 7 October 2020 | Revised: 30 December 2020 | Accepted: 5 January 2021 | Published: 30 March 2021

Mast cells are the major effectors in allergic reactions through degranulation and release of inflammatory, vasoactive and nociceptive mediators associated with the pathogenesis of a variety of inflammatory disorders. Mast cells are strategically positioned as gatekeepers at host/environment interfaces, like the skin, airways, gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts, and their presence also in the brain allows them to act not only as sentinels of invading microorganisms but also as targets to respond to different allergens, pathogens and other dangerous agents that can be ingested, inhaled or encountered after the breakdown of the epithelial barrier. Mast cells can respond to any change in the environment by communicating with the different cells involved in the immune response and giving rise to an amplification signal network through feedback loops. They secrete both preformed mediators within minutes of stimulation and de novo synthesized molecules acting as effectors in the relationship between nervous, vascular and immune systems. For this peculiarity, mast cells are master regulators and key players of the immune system and important sources of essential and beneficial mediators with crucial roles in regulating various physiological processes.

Mast cells
Neuroimmune interaction
Gut-brain axis
Neural diseases
Fig. 1.
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