Background & aims: The central nervous system regulates gut functions via complex interactions between the enteric nervous and immune systems. The aim of this study was to investigate whether mast cell mediators are released into the human jejunal lumen during stress.
Methods: A closed-segment perfusion technique was used to investigate jejunal release of tryptase, histamine, prostaglandin D2, and water flux in response to the cold pressor test in 8 healthy subjects and 9 patients with food allergy. In 6 food-allergic patients, jejunal biochemical responses to cold pain stress were compared with those induced by food intraluminal challenge.
Results: Cold pain stress elevated heart rate and blood pressure and increased luminal release of mast cell mediators and jejunal water secretion in both groups. Stress-induced release of tryptase and histamine, but not of prostaglandin D2 and water flux, was greater in food-allergic patients than in healthy volunteers. In food-allergic patients, jejunal biochemical responses induced by cold pain stress were similar to those induced by antigen challenge.
Conclusions: These results show the ability of the central nervous system to modulate intestinal mast cell activity and suggest that mast cells have a role in stress-related gut dysfunction.