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Brain Res. 1999 Dec 4;849(1-2):1-15.

Morphological and functional demonstration of rat dura mater mast cell-neuron interactions in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Pharmacology, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, USA.


Mast cells derive from a distinct bone marrow precursor and mature in tissues under the influence of stem cell factor, nerve growth factor (NGF) and certain interleukins. Intracranial mast cells first appear in the meninges and are located perivascularly close to neurons. They can be activated by antidromic stimulation of the trigeminal nerve, as well as by acute immobilization stress. Substance P (SP) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) are particularly potent in stimulating mast cell release of vasoactive, inflammatory and nociceptive molecules. These findings have suggested that mast cells may be involved in neuroinflammatory conditions, such as migraines. In this study, dura mast cells were shown to have characteristics of connective tissue mast cells (CTMC) as they contained histamine, heparin and rat mast cell protease I (RMCP-I). Mast cells were localized close to SP-positive neurons immunocytochemically and mast cell-neuron contacts were also documented using scanning electron microscopy. Dura stimulated by SP and carbachol in situ released histamine. Preincubation of dura with estradiol slightly augmented histamine release by SP, an effect possibly mediated through estrogen receptors identified on dura mast cells. Acute stress by immobilization led to dura mast cell degranulation which was prevented by pretreatment with a neutralizing antibody to CRH or a CRH receptor antagonist. The present results further clarify the biology of intracranial mast cells and support their involvement in the pathophysiology of migraines which are precipitated or worsened by stress.

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