Understanding mast cell heterogeneity at single cell resolution

Trends Immunol. 2021 Jun;42(6):523-535. doi: 10.1016/j.it.2021.04.004. Epub 2021 May 4.


Mast cells (MC)s are evolutionarily conserved, tissue-resident immune cells with diverse roles in allergy, cancer, and protection from infection by helminths and microorganisms. The significant diversity in MC development and tissue-specific functional characteristics has recently begun to be understood. Exciting developments in single-cell-based RNA, protein, and chromatin profiling technologies offer new opportunities to characterize MC heterogeneity and to uncover novel MC functions and subtypes; these developments might lead to new and clinically effective therapies for certain pathologies. In this review, we provide an overview of the current understanding of MC development and heterogeneity and discuss new insights gained from single-cell-based studies that may lead to future research directions and therapeutic opportunities.

Keywords: allergy; asthma; epigenetics; mast cells; single-cell RNA-seq; transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Mast Cells*
  • RNA*


  • RNA