Front. Immunol., 06 September 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2011.00037

Mast cells as cellular sensors in inflammation and immunity

Walid Beghdadi1,2, Lydia Célia Madjene1,2, Marc Benhamou1,2, Nicolas Charles1,2, Gregory Gautier1,2, Pierre Launay1,2 and Ulrich Blank1,2*
  • 1 INSERM U699, Paris, France
  • 2 Université Paris-Diderot UMR-S699, Paris, France

Mast cells are localized in tissues. Intense research on these cells over the years has demonstrated their role as effector cells in the maintenance of tissue integrity following injury produced by infectious agents, toxins, metabolic states, etc. After stimulation they release a sophisticated array of inflammatory mediators, cytokines, and growth factors to orchestrate an inflammatory response. These mediators can directly initiate tissue responses on resident cells, but they have also been shown to regulate other infiltrating immune cell functions. Research in recent years has revealed that the outcome of mast cell actions is not always detrimental for the host but can also limit disease development. In addition, mast cell functions highly depend on the physiological context in the organism. Depending on the genetic background, strength of the injurious event, the particular microenvironment, mast cells direct responses ranging from pro- to anti-inflammatory. It appears that they have evolved as cellular sensors to discern their environment in order to initiate an appropriate physiological response either aimed to favor inflammation for repair or at the contrary limit the inflammatory process to prevent further damage. Like every sophisticated machinery, its dysregulation leads to pathology. Given the broad distribution of mast cells in tissues this also explains their implication in many inflammatory diseases.

Keywords: mast cells, inflammation, immunity

Citation: Beghdadi W, Madjene LC, Benhamou M, Charles N, Gautier G, Launay P and Blank U (2011) Mast cells as cellular sensors in inflammation and immunity. Front. Immun. 2:37. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2011.00037

Received: 15 June 2011; Paper pending published: 07 July 2011;
Accepted: 16 August 2011; Published online: 06 September 2011.

Edited by:

Johan Van Der Vlag, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Martin Herrmann, Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Germany
Jaklien Leemans, Academic Medical Center, Netherlands

Copyright: © 2011 Beghdadi, Madjene, Benhamou, Charles, Gautier, Launay and Blank. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Ulrich Blank, Faculté de Médecine Site Xavier Bichat, INSERM U699, Université Paris-Diderot UMR-S699, 16 Rue Henri Huchard, 75018 Paris, France. e-mail:

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