Pathophysiology of ocular allergy: the roles of conjunctival mast cells and epithelial cells

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2002 Jul;2(4):332-9. doi: 10.1007/s11882-002-0062-6.


Allergic eye disease is associated with IgE-mediated conjunctival inflammation leading to signs of immediate hypersensitivity, including redness, itching, and tearing. Pathologic studies using conjunctival mast cells demonstrate that these cells, when sensitized with IgE antibody and exposed to environmental allergens, release mediators involved with allergic inflammation. The type, release kinetics, and concentration of these mediators in the conjunctiva have not been completely characterized. The ability to isolate and purify mast cells and epithelial cells from human conjunctival tissue has permitted the study of mediator release and cell-to-cell signaling in this tissue. Our laboratory has developed in vitro and in vivo models to better understand how inflammatory cells are recruited to and infiltrate conjunctival tissues. These models demonstrate that mast-cell activation may supply sufficient cytokine signaling to initiate and direct the well-orchestrated trafficking of eosinophils to the ocular surface, facilitate their adhesion, and cause release of potent mediators of ocular inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conjunctiva / immunology
  • Conjunctiva / pathology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / immunology
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / pathology*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 / immunology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mast Cells / pathology*
  • Receptors, IgE / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, IgE
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Immunoglobulin E