The role of the mast cell in clinical gastrointestinal disease with special reference to systemic mastocytosis

J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Mar;96(3):40S-43S; discussion 43S-44S.


The gastrointestinal tract is a rich source of mast cells with an enormous surface area that permits a high degree of interaction between the mast cell and intestinal luminal contents. The active metabolic products of the mast cell influence gastrointestinal secretion, absorption, and motility through paracrine effects of local mast cell degranulation and also cause systemic effects through the release of cellular products into the blood stream. Systemic mastocytosis influences physiologic function through the systemic effects of mast cell products released from focal (e.g., bone marrow) or wide spread increases in mast cell number. Local gastrointestinal proliferation of mast cells in response to recognized (e.g., gluten in celiac sprue) or obscure stimuli can alter gastrointestinal function and induce systemic symptoms. Celiac sprue, inflammatory bowel disease, and non-ulcer dyspepsia are three examples of gastrointestinal diseases in which mast cells can be implicated in the pathophysiology of the symptoms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mast Cells / physiology*
  • Mastocytosis / physiopathology*