Mast cells squeeze the heart and stretch the gird: their role in atherosclerosis and obesity

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2011 Sep;32(9):534-42. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Mast cells are crucial for the development of allergic and anaphylactic reactions, but they are also involved in acquired and innate immunity. Increasing evidence now implicates mast cells in inflammatory diseases through activation by non-allergic triggers such as neuropeptides and cytokines. This review discusses how mast cells contribute to the inflammatory processes associated with coronary artery disease and obesity. Animal models indicate that mast cells, through the secretion of various vasoactive mediators, cytokines and proteinases, contribute to coronary plaque progression and destabilization, as well as to diet-induced obesity and diabetes. Understanding how mast cells participate in these inflammatory processes could help in the development of unique inhibitors with novel therapeutic applications for these diseases, which constitute the greatest current threat to global human health and welfare.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / physiopathology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Mast Cells / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Peptide Hydrolases