The number of esophageal mucosa mast cells (MCs) increases in allergic and inflammation conditions in the esophagus, but their role in these conditions is less clear. MCs are derived from bone marrow, migrate and mature in the peripheral tissues. Two subsets of MCs have been characterized as mucosal MC (MMC) and connective tissue MC (CTMC) defined by anatomic location, granule contents, and functions. Whether esophageal MCs share typical features with either MMC or CTMC has yet to be determined. This study characterized esophageal MCs subtypes, distribution, antigen-induced sensitization, and degranulation as measured by MC staining and histamine release assay. Immunofluorescent double staining of MC tryptase and chymase were performed in the esophagus, intestine, and skin from normal and ovalbumin (OVA) actively sensitized guinea pigs. Histamine release was measured in the esophagus from OVA-sensitized guinea pigs following in vitro antigen challenge. Similar to the MCs in the intestine and skin, esophageal MCs contained three subtypes, which included 62% MCTC (tryptase+/chymase+), 17% MCC (chymase+/tryptase-), and 21% MCT (tryptase+/chymase In contrast to the ileal MCs, which were distributed all over the mucosa, submucosa, and serosa, MCs in the esophagus almost all (more than 98%) lined along the lamina propria. OVA active sensitization significantly increased the esophageal MC subtype MCTC. OVA in vitro challenge of the esophagus from sensitized guinea pig significantly decreased tryptase-positiveMCsubtypesMCTC andMCT, and released a significant amount of tissue histamine content. In conclusion, MCs in the guinea pig esophagus have unique features in immunophenotypes, distribution, and degranulation response to OVA challenge with the release of significant amounts of proteases and histamine into the tissue. These characteristics may indicate that OVA in vitro challenge in OVA-sensitized guinea pig esophagus could be a good model to study the role of esophageal MCs in allergic and inflammation conditions.
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