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Cell Tissue Res. 1998 Jul;293(1):1-22.

A role for vesicles in human basophil secretion.

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Department of Pathology, East Campus, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The evidence for vesicular transport as a mechanism for secretion by human basophils is reviewed. Initially, direct electron-microscopic inspection of experimentally produced and sequentially biopsied contact allergy skin lesions revealed a unique form of secretion termed piecemeal degranulation, characterized by the slow emptying of secretory granule contents (with retention of empty containers) in the absence of extrusion of entire granules. Budding of small vesicles to/from secretory granules was observed, and cytoplasmic vesicles were abundant. A generalized degranulation model was proposed to unify classical regulated secretion and this new form of secretion. Investigation of the mechanism(s) of secretion from human basophils required the development of numerous tools and resources. Chief among these were: (a) isolation and purification of circulating basophils; (b) identification of specific growth factors to increase the supply of this rare granulocyte; (c) understanding of secretogogue mechanisms and reliable analyses of secreted basophil products; and (d) development of ultrastructural preparations allowing imaging of small vesicles and quantifiable small electron-dense tags for granule materials in small vesicles. Applications of these tools to well-defined models of basophil secretion have established a role for vesicles as a mechanism for effecting secretion of histamine and the Charcot-Leyden crystal protein from activated human basophils.

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