The relationship of mast cells and their secreted products to the volume of fibrosis in posttransplant hearts

Transplantation. 1992 May;53(5):1047-51. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199205000-00015.


A series of 96 posttransplant endomyocardial biopsies taken from 11 patients was subjected to quantitative analysis of mast cells and fibrosis. Ultrastructural analysis showed that mast cell numbers were increased and there was obvious degranulation in some posttransplant hearts. Activated mast cells and their secreted products, which contain heparin and histamine, are toxic to the hearts and may contribute to interstitial and perimyocytic fibrosis. The numbers of mast cells and granules were correlated with volume of fibrosis (r = 0.63, P less than 0.025; r = 0.73, P less than 0.01). There were differences between the release of mast cell granule contents seen in the posttransplant hearts and the rapid and massive reaction of anaphylactic degranulation of mast cells. Some mast cells progressively lost their dense granule contents, displaying a variety of piecemeal degranulation that indicates a slow degranulation process. These events occurred from the first week; they lasted from weeks to months. The fibrosis developed quickly in the cases with more mast cells and degranulation. The cases with fewer mast cells and granules showed only mild increases in the volume of fibrosis. Mast cells appeared as early as the first posttransplantation week. Patients with greater numbers of mast cells underwent more severe rejection episodes. This study demonstrated that mast cells play an early and important role in the perimyocytic and interstitial fibrosis of posttransplant hearts. Mast cells may also be important in the inflammatory process of rejection reaction. The severity of fibrosis appears related to the density of mast cells and their granules.

MeSH terms

  • Fibrosis / etiology
  • Graft Rejection
  • Heart Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mast Cells / metabolism*
  • Mast Cells / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myocardium / pathology*