Published online Nov 28, 2005. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v11.i44.7054
Revised: July 3, 2005
Accepted: July 8, 2005
Published online: November 28, 2005
Mast cell (MC) is so widely recognized as a critical effector in allergic disorders that it can be difficult to think of MC in any other context. Indeed, MCs are multifunctional and recently shown that MCs can also act as antigen presenters as well as effector elements of human immune system. First observations of their possible role as anti-tumor cells in peri- or intra-tumoral tissue were mentioned five decades ago and a high content of MCs is considered as a favorable prognosis, consistent with this study. Believers of this hypothesis assumed them to be inhibitors of tumor development through their pro-apoptotic and -necrolytic granules e.g., granzymes and TNF-α. However, some still postulate them to be enhancers of tumor development through their effects on angiogenesis due to mostly tryptase. There are also some data suggesting increased MC density causes tumor development and indicates bad prognosis. Furthermore, since MC-associated mediators have shown to influence various aspects of tumor biology, the net effect of MCs on the development/progression of tumors has been difficult to evaluate. For instance, chymase induces apoptosis in targets; yet, tryptase, another MC protease, is a well-known mitogen. MCs with these various enzyme expression patterns may mediate different functions and the predominant MC type in tissues may be determined by the environmental needs. The coexistence of tryptase-expressing MCs (MCT) and chymase and tryptase-expressing MCs (MCTC) in physiological conditions reflects a naturally occurring balance that contributes to tissue homeostasis. We have recently discussed the role and relevance of MC serine proteases in different bone marrow diseases.