The Role of Mast Cells in IgE-Independent Lung Diseases

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2020 Jun;58(3):377-387. doi: 10.1007/s12016-020-08779-5.


Mast cells (MCs) are granular cells of the innate immune system which develop from CD34+/CD117+ progenitors and play a role in orchestrating adaptive immune responses. They have a well-known role in allergic reactions following immunoglobulin (Ig)E-mediated activation of the cell-surface expressed IgE high-affinity receptor (FcεRI). MCs can also respond to various other stimuli due to the expression of a variety of receptors including toll-like receptors (TLRs), immunoglobulin (IgG) receptors (FcγR), complement receptors such as C5a (CD88) expressed by skin MCs, neuropeptides receptors including nerve growth factor receptor, (NGFR), cytokines receptors such as (IL)-1R and IL-3R, and chemokines receptors including CCR-1 and CCR-3. MCs release three groups of mediators upon degranulation differentiated according to their chemical composition, storage, and time to release. These include preformed mediators (mainly histamine, tryptase, and chymase), de novo synthesized mediators such as prostaglandin (PG)D2, leukotriene (LT)B4 and LTD4, and cytokines including IL-1β, IL-3, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α, and transforming growth factor(TGF)-β. Emerging evidence indicates a role for IgE-independent MC activation in the late-stage asthmatic response as well as in non-allergic airway diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and lung cancer. MC infiltration/activation has been reported in some, but not all, studies of lung cancer. MC-derived TNF-α possesses tumor-suppressive activity while IL-1β supports tumor progression and metastasis. In IPF lungs, an increase in density of tryptase- and chymase-positive MCs (MCTC) and overexpression of TGF-β support the fibrosis progression. MC-derived chymase activates latent TGF-β that induces the differentiation of fibroblasts to matrix-producing myofibroblasts. In summary, increasing evidence highlights a critical role of MCs in non-allergic diseases that may indicate new approaches for therapy.

Keywords: Antigen-independent; COPD; IPF; Lung cancer; Mast cells; Non-IgE mast cell activation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Degranulation
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Mast Cells / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Immunoglobulin E