Mast cell

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A mast cell is a type of white blood cell called a granulocyte. Mast cells are present in most tissues surrounding blood vessels and nerves, and are play an important role in the mucosal immune system and allergic response.

They release histamine and heparin.



Mast cells are activated by a transient rise in calcium in the cytosol.[1]


In a mouse model of myocarditis, Coxsackievirus infection was found to upregulate Toll-like receptor 4 on mast cells and macrophages immediately following infection. It also increased numbers of mast cells.[2]

Nervous system[edit]

Mast cells play an important role in the gut-brain axis of the peripheral nervous system. They are found throughout the gastrointestinal tract near sensory nerve fibers, such as the sensory vagus nerve. In the central nervous system, they are found on the blood-brain barrier, in the dural layer of the meninges, and in areas of the brain responsible for pain or neuroendocrine functions including the pituitary stalk, pineal gland, thalamus, and hypothalamus.

They are a primary type of effector cell though which intestinal pathogens can affect the brain.[3][4]

Mast cell activation disorder[edit]

Mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) is a disorder where mast cells are normal in number but over-responsive to dietary and environmental triggers. Cells release excess histamine and other signaling molecules, causing symptoms. It is often found in patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a form of orthostatic intolerance.[5]


Mastocytosis is a genetic disorder of excessive populations of mast cells.

Chronic fatigue syndrome[edit]

One study found that moderate and severe ME/CFS patients had higher levels of naive mast cells than healthy controls.[6]

Notable studies[edit]


  5. Milner, Joshua, Dr. "Research Update: POTS, EDS, MCAS Genetics." 2015 Dysautonomia International Conference & CME. Washington DC. Dysautonomia International Research Update: POTS, EDS, MCAS Genetics. Web. <>.

The information provided at this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness.

From MEpedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME and CFS science and history