Association between histamine-containing mast cells and sensory nerves in the skin and airways of control and capsaicin-treated pigs

Cell Tissue Res. 1991 Jun;264(3):529-38. doi: 10.1007/BF00319042.


The association between mast cells (visualized by routine staining and immunohistochemistry for histamine) and capsaicin-sensitive nerves (containing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP] was studied in the pig. In the 1-ethyl-3(3-diethylaminopropyl)carbodiimide (EDCDI)-fixed skin tissue, histamine-containing mast cells and CGRP/SP-positive nerves were found in close association around blood vessels. In the EDCDI-fixed airway mucosa, only single histamine-containing mast cells were detected. However, many alcian blue-positive mast cells were found, sometimes close to the airway epithelium where CGRP SP-containing nerve were abundant. The CGRP/SP-containing nerve fibres were absent 2 days after systemic capsaicin pretreatment, but no changes in the number and distribution of tissue mast cells, granulocytes or lymphocytes, or the number of blood leukocytes were detected. Local injection of allergen, histamine and capsaicin into the skin of pigs actively sensitized with ascaris antigen caused a rapid light red-flare (vasodilation) reaction. Allergen and histamine, but not capsaicin, also produced plasma protein extravasation. In contrast to the absent flare, the protein extravasation response still occurred in capsaicin-treated pigs. The sensitivity to ascaris antigen was mediated by an IgE-like antibody. We conclude that a functional and morphological relationship exists between histamine-containing mast cells and capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves in the pig skin. Mast cells and sensory nerves are also found in the airway mucosa and appear to be closely associated with the epithelium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / analysis
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Histamine / analysis
  • Histamine / pharmacology
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Mast Cells / chemistry
  • Mast Cells / cytology*
  • Mast Cells / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Respiratory System / blood supply
  • Respiratory System / cytology*
  • Respiratory System / drug effects
  • Respiratory System / innervation
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / cytology*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / innervation
  • Substance P / analysis
  • Swine


  • Antigens, Helminth
  • Substance P
  • Histamine
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Capsaicin