A comparative survey of the mast cells of the mammalian brain

J Anat. 1976 Apr;121(Pt 2):303-11.


A search for mast cells has been made in the brains of 18 mammalian species in 13 families in the orders Insectivora, Primates, Rodentia and Carnivora. In the larger animals, only the diencephalon and olfactory bulbs were examined. Mast cells were identified by virtue of their heparin-containing granules, which are stained by Alcian blue 8GX and, metachromatically, by toluidine blue 0. Within the cerebral parenchyma, mast cells were confined to the dorsal diencephalon of Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehog), Tupaia glis (tree-shrew) and Nycticebus coucang (slow loris). Some cells were next to capillaries; others were not. Mast cells were sometimes found, though rarely, in the intracerebral perivascular connective tissue leptomeninges and choroid plexuses of some of the other species examined. It is concluded that pericapillary cells (pericytes), which have been called mast cells by some investigators, are not in fact mast cells since there is no evidence for the presence of heparin. The functions of mast cells in the brain are unknown.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Carnivora / anatomy & histology
  • Cats
  • Cricetinae
  • Eulipotyphla / anatomy & histology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Haplorhini
  • Heparin / metabolism
  • Hibernation
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Mast Cells* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Primates / anatomy & histology
  • Rats
  • Rodentia / anatomy & histology
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Heparin