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Front. Immunol., 25 May 2012 |

Mast cell: an emerging partner in immune interaction

Giorgia Gri, Barbara Frossi, Federica D’Inca, Luca Danelli, Elena Betto, Francesca Mion, Riccardo Sibilano and Carlo Pucillo*
  • Immunology Laboratory, Department of Medical and Biological Science, University of Udine, Udine, Italy

Mast cells (MCs) are currently recognized as effector cells in many settings of the immune response, including host defense, immune regulation, allergy, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases. MC pleiotropic functions reflect their ability to secrete a wide spectrum of preformed or newly synthesized biologically active products with pro-inflammatory, anti-inflammatory and/or immunosuppressive properties, in response to multiple signals. Moreover, the modulation of MC effector phenotypes relies on the interaction of a wide variety of membrane molecules involved in cell–cell or cell-extracellular-matrix interaction. The delivery of co-stimulatory signals allows MC to specifically communicate with immune cells belonging to both innate and acquired immunity, as well as with non-immune tissue-specific cell types. This article reviews and discusses the evidence that MC membrane-expressed molecules play a central role in regulating MC priming and activation and in the modulation of innate and adaptive immune response not only against host injury, but also in peripheral tolerance and tumor-surveillance or -escape. The complex expression of MC surface molecules may be regarded as a measure of connectivity, with altered patterns of cell–cell interaction representing functionally distinct MC states. We will focalize our attention on roles and functions of recently discovered molecules involved in the cross-talk of MCs with other immune partners.

Keywords: mast cell, cell–cell interaction, adaptive immunity, innate immunity

Citation: Gri G, Frossi B, D’Inca F, Danelli L, Betto E, Mion F, Sibilano R and Pucillo C (2012) Mast cell: an emerging partner in immune interaction. Front. Immun. 3:120. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2012.00120

Received: 20 March 2012; Accepted: 27 April 2012;
Published online: 25 May 2012.

Edited by:

Ulrich Blank, Université Paris-Diderot Paris 7, France

Reviewed by:

Salah Mécheri, Institut Pasteur, France
Joana Vitte, Aix-Marseille University, France

Copyright: © 2012 Gri, Frossi, D’Inca, Danelli, Betto, Mion, Sibilano and Pucillo. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Carlo Pucillo, Immunology Laboratory, Department of Medical and Biological Science, University of Udine, P.le Massimiliano Kolbe, 4 – 33100 Udine, Italy. e-mail: