The function and properties of human lung mast cells

Respiration. 1986:50 Suppl 2:31-41. doi: 10.1159/000195099.


Mast cells may be recovered from human subjects by bronchoalveolar lavage. Such bronchoalveolar mast cells will release histamine in response to IgE-dependent challenge in a reaction that is dose-, time- and energy-dependent. They possess functional characteristics distinct from dispersed human lung mast cells. The percentage of mast cells within the bronchoalveolar cell population is critically dependent upon the underlying pathology. Greater numbers of mast cells may be recovered from the bronchoalveolar compartment of extrinsic asthmatics than from controls. In addition, bronchoalveolar mast cells from asthmatic subjects show an increased releasability of histamine in response to anti-IgE. Antigen challenge also leads to the release of histamine in vitro, demonstrating the potential for the antigen-specific initiation of bronchoconstriction in these subjects. Spontaneous release of histamine from bronchoalveolar mast cells of asthmatic subjects was also greater than in controls (up to 46%), a feature which may be related to non-immunological mechanisms of bronchoconstriction. Such non-immunological mechanisms have been further investigated utilising mannitol as a model of hyperosmolar histamine release. Mannitol induced a dose-dependent release of histamine from bronchoalveolar mast cells of normal subjects, and this release was significantly inhibited by sodium cromoglycate. The leukotrienes are putative major mediators of human asthma. After challenge with anti-IgE in vitro, dose-dependent release of leukotriene C4 and prostaglandin D2 occurs from the bronchoalveolar cells of normal subjects. The release of PGD2 shows significant correlation with histamine release. Lying superficially, bronchoalveolar mast cells would be readily accessible to inhaled antigen. Mediator release from such cells may be relevant to the pathogenesis of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / metabolism
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Cromolyn Sodium / pharmacology
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Histamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Mast Cells / classification
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Mast Cells / pathology
  • Mast Cells / physiology*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology


  • Histamine
  • Cromolyn Sodium