Ultrastructural evidence for a functional unit between nerve fibers and type II cerebral mast cells in the cerebral vascular wall

Neuroscience. 1987 Aug;22(2):621-30. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(87)90358-7.


By histofluorescence microscopic examinations of pial arteries from rats and rabbits, we have observed that the routes of adrenergic fibers were apparently organized along successive sites of granular autofluorescent cells present in the adventitia. Subsequent electron microscopic studies showed that these cells were often situated in close apposition (80 to 200 nm) to the adventitial nerve bundles. The granular cells and nerve varicosities were frequently enclosed within the same basement membrane, with a membrane-to-membrane distance as small as 20 nm. However, no clear membrane differentiation was seen. These granular cells were identified histochemically by staining with Sudan Black, Oil Red O, Toluidine Blue, Alcian Blue, together with ultrastructural and pharmacological methods (48/80 compound and carbachol intracarotid infusions). The cells, many of which contained large amounts of lipids, showed morphological ultrastructural and pharmacological similarities to peripheral mast cells. Nerve bundles contained two types of varicosities: some of them degenerated after superior cervical ganglionectomy and were thus of sympathetic origin, whereas the others contained small clear vesicles (probably cholinergic) and/or large dense-cored vesicles (probably peptidergic). As we have shown that cholinomimetics induce exocytosis of these granular cells, the close relationship between these cells and the nerve fibers may indicate a neurogenic control of the cerebrovascular mast cell secretion. As these cells contain potent vasoactive substances, this relationship may be of importance in the genesis of physiological or pathological cerebrovascular events which are, as yet, poorly understood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbachol / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Arteries / cytology
  • Cerebral Arteries / innervation
  • Cerebral Arteries / physiology
  • Cerebral Arteries / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Granulocytes / metabolism
  • Granulocytes / ultrastructure
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Mast Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Nerve Fibers / cytology
  • Nerve Fibers / ultrastructure*
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • p-Methoxy-N-methylphenethylamine / pharmacology


  • p-Methoxy-N-methylphenethylamine
  • Carbachol