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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Jun;1106:152-74. Epub 2007 Apr 27.

Role of thrombopoietin in mast cell differentiation.

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Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy.


Mast cells are important elements of the body response to foreign antigens, being those represented either by small molecules (allergic response) or harbored by foreign microorganisms (response to parasite infection). These cells derive from hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells present in the marrow. However, in contrast with most of the other hematopoietic lineages, mast cells do not differentiate in the marrow but in highly vascularized extramedullary sites, such as the skin or the gut. Mast cell differentiation in the marrow is activated as part of the body response to parasites. We will review here the mast cell differentiation pathway and what is known of its major intrinsic and extrinsic control mechanisms. It will also be described that thrombopoietin, the ligand for the Mpl receptor, in addition to its pivotal rule in the control of thrombocytopoiesis and of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell proliferation, exerts a regulatory function in mast cell differentiation. Some of the possible implications of this newly described biological activity of thrombopoietin will be discussed.

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