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Critical Reviews™ in Immunology
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ISSN Print: 1040-8401
ISSN Online: 2162-6472

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Critical Reviews™ in Immunology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.v22.i2.20
26 pages

Classical and Alternative Pathways of Mast Cell Activation

Michael Stassen
Institute of Immunology, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany
Lothar Hultner
GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology and Tumor Genetics, Munich, Germany
Edgar Schmitt
Institute of Immunology, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany


It has long since been recognized that mast cells are critical effectors of anaphylactic reactions, and the existence of these potentially hazardous cells has solely been justified due to their beneficial role in some infections with extracellular parasites.
A novel understanding of mast cells as sentinels of the immune system has been made possible by taking advantage of mast cell-deficient mice in order to study the roles of mast cells in vivo and by detailed analyses of mast cell activation in vitro. Collectively, these experiments have revealed a variety of IgE-independent stimuli, which lead to the activation of mast cells as crucial initiators of an inflammatory response. Besides their effector function, a variety of studies reviewed herein point towards important regulatory roles for mast cells, especially regarding their interaction with other cell types.

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