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J Immunol. 2009 Nov 15;183(10):6369-76. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0900180. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

Mouse mast cell protease 4 is the major chymase in murine airways and has a protective role in allergic airway inflammation.

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Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.


It is widely established that mast cells (MCs) have a harmful role in asthma, for example by secreting various proinflammatory substances stored within their secretory granule. However, in this study, we show that one of the substances stored within MC granule, chymase, in fact has a protective role in allergic airway inflammation, indicating that MCs may possess both harmful and protective activities in connection with this type of disease. Wild-type (WT) mice and mice lacking mouse MC protease 4 (mMCP-4), a chymase that is functionally homologous to human chymase, were sensitized and challenged with OVA, followed by the assessment of airway physiology and inflammatory parameters. Our results show that the airway hyperresponsiveness was significantly higher in mMCP-4(-/-) as compared with WT mice. Moreover, the degree of lung tissue inflammation was markedly higher in mice lacking mMCP-4 than in WT controls. Histological analysis revealed that OVA sensitization/challenge resulted in a marked increased in the thickness of the smooth muscle cell (SMC) layer and, notably, that the degree of SMC layer thickening was more pronounced in mMCP-4(-/-) animals than in WT controls, thus indicating that chymase may have an effect on airway SMCs. In support of this, mMCP-4-positive MCs were located in the close vicinity of the SMC layer, mainly in the upper airways, and mMCP-4 was shown to be the major chymase expressed in these MCs. Taken together, our results indicate that chymase present in the upper airways protects against allergic airway responses, possibly by regulating SMCs.

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