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Immunol Rev. 2018 Mar;282(1):232-247. doi: 10.1111/imr.12632.

The role and relevance of mast cells in urticaria.

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Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, Moscow, Russian Federation.


This review presents evidence that the skin mast cell, in particular the MCTC subtype, is the primary effector cell in urticaria. Mast cells are located in the upper dermis, the ideal situation for wheal formation and sensory nerve stimulation. Increased numbers of mast cells are found in both lesional and non-lesional skin in CSU and inducible urticaria. Mast cell degranulation in the area of wheals has been demonstrated repeatedly by light and electron microscopy. Histamine, PGD2 and tryptase are found in the venous blood draining wheal formation. The last 2 are specific for mast cells rather than basophils. Mast cell reactivity is increased in active urticaria by local inflammatory cytokines and neuropeptides. Mast cell cytokines and neuropeptides, particularly nerve growth factor, induce a Th2 type inflammation that is particularly obvious at the sites of whealing. In conclusion, autoimmunity, either of Type 1 viz. IgE antibodies to local autoallergens, or Type 2b, viz. IgG autoantibodies to IgE or its receptor, are considered to be the most frequent causes of CSU. In both cases, the mast cell is likely to be the axial cell in producing the wheals.


autoallergy; chronic spontaneous urticaria; mast cell; urticaria

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