Pathogenic and diagnostic relevance of KIT in primary mast cell activation disorders

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2021 Oct;127(4):427-434. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2021.07.014. Epub 2021 Jul 20.


Objective: Mast cell (MC) activation (MCA) defines the mechanism by which certain patients have symptoms owing to the effect of a wide range of mediators released from MCs upon their activation, when triggered by different stimuli. When these symptoms are severe and recurrent, the diagnosis of MCA syndrome (MCAS) might be considered. Here, we review the relevant aspects related to the pathogenesis of MCAS, with special emphasis on the prevalence and diagnostic relevance of KIT mutations.

Data sources: PubMed was searched between 1980 and 2021 using the following terms: mast cell activation syndromes, mast cell activation, anaphylaxis, KIT mutations, KIT D816V, indolent systemic mastocytosis, bone marrow mastocytosis, cutaneous mastocytosis, IgE anaphylaxis, and idiopathic anaphylaxis.

Study selections: Only articles published in English were selected based on their relevance to MCAS or severe and recurrent anaphylaxis.

Results: MCAS can be classified as clonal MCAS and nonclonal MCAS depending on the presence vs absence of an underlying KIT mutation (mostly KIT D816V), respectively. In contrast to clonal MCAS in which MCA is associated with a primary MC disorder (ie, primary MCAS) such as mastocytosis or monoclonal MCAS, nonclonal MCAS can be secondary to known or unidentified triggers (ie, secondary and idiopathic MCAS, respectively).

Conclusion: The clinical heterogeneity and complexity of the molecular assays needed for the study of patients with MCAS might lead to misdiagnosis, particularly when patients are evaluated at nonspecialized centers. Thus, referral of patients having clinical manifestations suggestive of MCAS to reference centers on mastocytosis and MC diseases is strongly recommended.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis / pathology
  • Frameshift Mutation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Mast Cells / immunology*
  • Mastocytosis, Systemic / genetics*
  • Mastocytosis, Systemic / immunology
  • Mastocytosis, Systemic / pathology*
  • Point Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Domains / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics*
  • Tryptases / genetics*


  • Inflammation Mediators
  • KIT protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Tryptases