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Immunobiology. 2007;212(6):505-19. Epub 2007 May 7.

Mast cells in allergy: innate instructors of adaptive responses.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Cell Biology, Research Center Borstel, Parkallee 22, D-23845 Borstel, Germany.


The function of mast cells as effector cells in allergy has been extensively studied. However, increasing insight into mast cell physiology has revealed new mast cell functions and has introduced mast cells as key players in the regulation of innate as well as adaptive immunity. For example, mast cells have recently been found to express Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which enable them to participate in the innate immune response against pathogens. Furthermore, mast cells have been reported to interact with B cells, dendritic cells and T cells and thereby modulate the direction of an adaptive immune response. Finally, recent documentation that mast cells express functional MHC class II and costimulatory molecules and release immunologically active exosomes, has raised the possibility that mast cells also engage in (as yet) poorly understood antigen presentation functions. In this review, we explore the hypothesis that mast cells serve as central mediators between innate and adaptive immunity, rather as pure effector cells, during allergic innate responses.

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