Background: In allergic rhinitis, mast cells are increased in number in the epithelium of the nasal mucosa and play an important role in the immediate response. However, the mechanism of the accumulation is not known.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether the nasal epithelial cells produce stem cell factor (SCF), the mast cell growth and chemoattractant factor, and contribute mast cell hyperplasia in the epithelium of allergic rhinitis.
Methods: We have characterized the cellular localization of SCF using immunohistochemistry, reverse transcribed-PCR, and ELISA; compared SCF production of cultured epithelial cells between patients with allergic rhinitis and nonallergic subjects; and compared the SCF production with the number of mast cells and the histamine content in the nasal epithelial scrapings.
Results: Immunohistochemically, SCF was identified in the nasal epithelium of the biopsy specimens and in cultured nasal epithelial cells. SCF mRNA was expressed by cultured nasal epithelial cells not only in patients with allergy but also in subjects with no allergy. However, the SCF/beta-actin mRNA ratio and SCF production in day 7 cultured epithelial cells was significantly higher in allergic than in nonallergic subjects (P =. 0424, P =.0085, respectively). SCF production from nasal scrapings in culture was strongly correlated with the number of mast cells (r = 0.506, P =.0023) and the histamine content (r = 0.480, P =.0040).
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that nasal epithelial cells produce SCF and may be important in the attraction, proliferation, and activation of mast cells in allergic inflammation in the nose.