Mast cell-orchestrated immunity to pathogens.
Although mast cells were discovered more than a century ago, their functions beyond their role in allergic responses remained elusive until recently. However, there is a growing appreciation that an important physiological function of these cells is the recognition of pathogens and modulation of appropriate immune responses. Because of their ability to instantly release several pro-inflammatory mediators from intracellular stores and their location at the host-environment interface, mast cells have been shown to be crucial for optimal immune responses during infection. Mast cells seem to exert these effects by altering the inflammatory environment after detection of a pathogen and by mobilizing various immune cells to the site of infection and to draining lymph nodes. Interestingly, the character and timing of these responses can vary depending on the type of pathogen stimulus, location of pathogen recognition and sensitization state of the responding mast cells. Recent studies using mast cell activators as effective vaccine adjuvants show the potential of harnessing these cells to confer protective immunity against microbial pathogens.
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