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Mast Cells and Neuroinflammation

Hongquan Dong, Xiang Zhang, Yanning Qian

(Department of Anesthesiology, First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China (mainland))

Med Sci Monit Basic Res 2014; 20:200-206

DOI: 10.12659/MSMBR.893093

Abstract: It has been determined that there is extensive communication between the immune system and the central nervous system (CNS). Proinflammatory cytokines play a key role in this communication. There is an emerging realization that glia and microglia, in particular, (which are the brain’s resident macrophages), are an important source of inflammatory mediators and may have fundamental roles in CNS disorders. Microglia respond also to proinflammatory signals released from other non-neuronal cells, principally those of immune origin, such as mast cells. Mast cells reside in the CNS and are capable of migrating across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in situations where the barrier is compromised as a result of CNS pathology. Mast cells are both sensors and effectors in communication among nervous, vascular, and immune systems. In the brain, they reside on the brain side of the BBB, and interact with astrocytes, microglia, and blood vessels via their neuroactive stored and newly synthesized chemicals. They are first responders, acting as catalysts and recruiters to initiate, amplify, and prolong other immune and nervous responses upon activation. Mast cells both promote deleterious outcomes in brain function and contribute to normative behavioral functioning, particularly cognition and emotion. Mast cells may play a key role in treating systemic inflammation or blockade of signaling pathways from the periphery to the brain.

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