Only 2 major mast cell (MC) subtypes are commonly recognized in the mouse: the large connective tissue mast cells (CTMCs) and the mucosal mast cells (MMCs). Interepithelial mucosal inflammatory cells, most commonly identified as globule leukocytes (GLs), represent a third MC subtype in mice, which we term interepithelial mucosal mast cells (ieMMCs). This term clearly distinguishes ieMMCs from lamina proprial MMCs (lpMMCs) while clearly communicating their common MC lineage. Both lpMMCs and ieMMCs are rare in normal mouse intestinal mucosa, but increased numbers of ieMMCs are seen as part of type 2 immune responses to intestinal helminth infections and in food allergies. Interestingly, we found that increased ieMMCs were consistently associated with decreased mucosal inflammation and damage, suggesting that they might have a role in controlling helminth-induced immunopathology. We also found that ieMMC hyperplasia can develop in the absence of helminth infections, for example, in Treg-deficient mice, Arf null mice, some nude mice, and certain graft-vs-host responses. Since tuft cell hyperplasia plays a critical role in type 2 immune responses to intestinal helminths, we looked for (but did not find) any direct relationship between ieMMC and tuft cell numbers in the intestinal mucosa. Much remains to be learned about the differing functions of ieMMCs and lpMMCs in the intestinal mucosa, but an essential step in deciphering their roles in mucosal immune responses will be to apply immunohistochemistry methods to consistently and accurately identify them in tissue sections.
Keywords: Heligmosomoides bakeri; Treg; Trichuris muris; graft-vs-host; immunohistochemistry; mast cell; mouse.