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0271-0749/02/2202-0103/0Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Copyright 2002 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
Mast Cells and Stress—A Psychoneuroimmunological
Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
The complexity of interactions among neurotransmit-
well known for their involvement in allergic and ana-
ters and neuromodulators in the brain continues to ex-
phylactic reactions20; then, surface bound immunoglobu-
pand. The involvement of immune molecules has added
lin E (IgE) complexes with specific antigen, causing de-
a new dimension. An important new contributor that is of
granulation, like a foil package of popcorn popping until
interest to psychopharmacology is a unique cell, named
the contents overflow.21 Many of these molecules are pre-
“mast cell” by Paul Erlich in 1887 because its numerous
formed and stored in almost 500 secretory granules,
metachromatic granules reminded him of a “well-fed
while others are made do novo
during or following stim-
cell” (German ϭ Mastzellen).1 These cells are particularly
ulation.22,23 It is fascinating that one cell should have such
active in atopic individuals, who also have higher inci-
plethora and diversity of potent molecules that include
dences of affective disorders.2–5 Moreover, the allergy
arachidonic acid products, biogenic amines, chemoat-
season has been shown to affect mood and cognitive
tractants, cytokines, growth factors, neuropeptides, pro-
function in these patients.6 Stress is known to exacerbate
teoglycans, and proteolytic enzymes (Table 2). Although
many neuroinflammatory conditions7, but, until recently,
the mast cell is ubiquitous in the body—including the
mast cells were not suspected of being involved in con-
brain, which does not suffer from allergic reactions be-
ditions such as dermatoses8, irritable bowel syndrome9,
cause IgE does not cross the blood-brain barrier—de-
interstitial cystitis10, migraines11, and multiple sclerosis
granulation occurs only in about 10% or so of atopic indi-
(MS).12 Although Hans Seyle wrote the first definitive
viduals. Moreover, increasing evidence indicates that
work on stress13 and one on mast cells14, he did not link
some molecules are released from mast cells without de-
the two at that time. The effect of acute stress is particu-
granulation, a process termed “differential release” and
larly evident in systemic mastocytosis, a rare condition
first reported for serotonin.24 Other biogenic amines25,
characterized by abnormal proliferation and activation of
arachidonic acid products26, and cytokines27 may also be
mast cells.15,16 For these patients, and possibly many oth-
released differentially. The morphological appearance of
ers who have a neuroinflammatory syndrome with an af-
this process is characterized by a more subtle set of
fective component worsened by stress (Table 1), when
changes within the electron dense content of the secre-
anxiety rises, they know there will be a flare-up in symp-
tory granules28 and has been called “piece-meal degranu-
toms, which may include flushing of the skin, intestinal
lation”29 or “intergranular activation”.30 The type(s) of
upset, palpitations, migraines, and changes in mood and
molecule(s) released may vary from person to person,
cognitive function.12 These latter symptoms could be due
and/or from organ to organ, depending on hormonal and
to activation of brain mast cells, which are plentiful in the
psychological state and the specific trigger.
Anatomical and functional associations have been re-
Mast cells are found in most parts of the body and are
ported between mast cells and neurons.31,32 Scanningelectron microscopy has documented mast cells close to
Address requests for reprints to: Theoharis C. Theoharides, PhD,
endothelial cells and to neuronal processes.33 Molecules
MD, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics,
released from nerves34–36, such substance P (SP), neu-
Internal Medicine, Biochemistry, and Psychiatry Tufts University
rotensin (NT), nerve growth factor (NGF), and opioids37
School of Medicine, New England Medical Center, Boston, Massa-chusetts. Address e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
could trigger mast cells (Table 3), from which histamine
J CLIN PSYCHOPHARMACOL, VOL 22/NO 2, APRIL 2002
TABLE 1. Neuroinflammatory syndromes with an affective
could stimulate neuronal depolarization38, which could
lead to further activation of mast cells. Moreover, mast
cell derived chondroitin sulfate or heparin complexes
with NGF and extends its half-life from a few minutes to
many hours.39,40 Therefore, mast cell activation could
lead to abnormal nerve proliferation (i.e., in neurofibro-
matosis I).41 Intracranial mast cells could also be acti-
vated by stimulation of the trigeminal42, sympathetic43,
or sphenopalatine44 nerves and by acute restraint
stress45, in the absence of any allergic diathesis. Some
molecules from these mast cells could have direct ef-fects on the brain, while others could make the blood-brain barrier “leaky” and permit circulating chemicalsto enter the brain.46,47 Breakdown of the blood-brain bar-rier has been shown to precede any clinical or radi-
Epinephrine, dopamine, phenylalanine (not synthesized, but taken
Vasodilation, angiogenesis, mitogenesis, pain
Tissue damage, pain, angiotensin II synthesis
Cartilage synthesis, antiinflammatory, NGF stabilization
Connective tissue synthesis, NGF stabilization
Inflammation, leukocyte proliferation/activation
Inflammation, vascular adhesion molecule expression
Platelet activation & serotonin release
CSF, colony stimulating factor; INF␥, interferon-␥; MIF, macrophage inflammatory factor; b-FGF, fibroblast growth factor; NGF, nerve growth
factor; TGF-␤, transforming growth factor-␤; TNF-␣, tumor necrosis factor-␣; SRIF, somatostatin; GM-CSF, granulcyte monocyte-colony stimu-lating factor.
J CLIN PSYCHOPHARMACOL, VOL 22/NO 2, APRIL 2002
TABLE 3. Triggers of mast cell activation
quent release of histamine60 and IL-6.61 This action ofhistamine is not blocked by the usual antihistamines
and appears to be mediated through the type 3 hista-
mine receptor.62 IL-6, a key inflammatory cytokine63, is
known be released from the hearts of patients with
acute coronary syndrome, and is now considered a crit-
Detergents; food additives; xenoestrogens
ical player in coronary artery disease.64 Stress-induced
Contrast media used in radiologyCytokines
cardiac mast cell activation may be involved in unstable
angina and myocardial infarction triggered by acute
stress.65–67 Acute stress also results in bladder68 and in-
Local anesthetics; neuromuscular junction blockers, opioids
testinal69,70 mast cell activation, which may explain why
symptoms in interstitial cystitis (IC) and irritable bowel
Nerve growth factor, NGF; stem cell factor, SCF
syndrome (IBS) patients worsen under stress.
Corticotropin-releasing hormone or factor (CRH or
Adrenocorticotropic hormone, ACTH; corticotropin releasing
CRF) is the first molecule released under stress and ac-
hormone, CRH; estradiol; parathormone, PTH; urocortin, Ucn
tivates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (PHA) axis.71
We have shown that CRH72 and structurally related uro-
Bradykinin; calcitonin gene related peptide, CGRP; myelin basic
cortin73 are powerful triggers of mast cell activation in
protein, MBP; neurotensin, NT; somatostatin, SRIF; substance
the skin. In fact, urocortin was 10 times more potent
P, SP; vasoactive intestinal peptide, VIP
than CRH and much more potent than SP.73 These
actions were mimicked by acute stress74 and may be
responsible for stress-induced alopecia areata.75 Such
findings and the presence of both CRH and CRH recep-
tors in the skin76 have led to the hypothesis that the skin
has the equivalent of a local “pituitary-adrenal axis”.77
Recent findings showed that hypothalamic mast cell ac-
tivation by chemical78 or immunologic means79 trig-
Bacterial (Clostridium difficile); insect (fire ants); jelly fish (man
gered activation of the HPA axis. This action could be
mediated either through activation of CRH neurons di-
rectly or the release of IL-6, a CRH independent activa-
tor of the HPA axis.80 CRH or urocortin then could befurther released from recruited immune cells.81
Recognizing the involvement of mast cells and regulat-
ing their secretion may be more important than simply ad-
ographic signs of MS.48 Therefore, it is of interest that
dressing the effects of individual mediators. A case in
chemical49 or stress-induced stimulation of brain mast
point is the clinical report (Pehlivanidis and associates,
cells50 increased blood-brain barrier permeability. More-
page 221 in this issue) of a young boy mistakenly diag-
over, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis could not
nosed and unsuccessfully treated for epilepsy. When it
be induced in mast cell deficient mice.51 These findings
was recognized that his seizures were induced by acute
support the possible relationship between intracranial
stress and were associated with his mastocytosis, he was
mast cells and migraines52, as well as MS53, that are often
successfully treated with a combination of the anxiolytic
precipitated or worsened by stress.54–57 Dura mast cells
antihistamine hydroxyzine and the tricyclic doxepin. The
also express estrogen receptors33, a finding that, along
efficacy of these compounds may be explained by the fact
with the report that estrogen augments mast cell secre-
that mast cell activation can be inhibited by certain tri-
tion58, may possibly explain the higher incidence of mi-
cyclic anxiolytic medications, such as amitriptyline and
graines in women or their frequent occurrence during
hydroxyzine82, and benzodiazepines.83 In fact, mast cells
have been reported to express high affinity benzodi-
Many patients also experience tachycardia and ar-
azepine receptors.84,85 Hydroxyzine was recently shown to
rhythmias related to stress. Such cardiovascular symp-
inhibit neurogenic inflammation and experimental aller-
toms may be associated with increased sympathetic ac-
gic encephalomyelitis in rats.86 In humans, hydroxyzine
tivity or reflex tachycardia in response to histamine-
has been used successfully to treat acute pain87 and re-
induced hypotension. However, such symptoms may
mitting-relapsing MS.88 Such anxiolytic molecules could
also be explained by the recent finding that acute stress
be combined with naturally occurring flavonoids89 or pro-
triggers mast cell activation in the heart59, with subse-
teoglycans90 for more efficient inhibition of mast cell
J CLIN PSYCHOPHARMACOL, VOL 22/NO 2, APRIL 2002
activation. Behavioral modification for stress reduction
tem. Part I. Morphology, distribution and histochemistry. J Neu-
also contributed to the treatment of the child described in
19. Pang X, Letourneau R, Rozniecki JJ, Wang L, Theoharides TC. De-
the case report by Pehlivanidis and associates. We used
finitive characterization of rat hypothalamic mast cells. Neuro-
this approach because of our finding that training in re-
laxation led to a sharp decline in the frequency and sever-
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22. Schwartz LB. Mediators of human mast cells and human mast cell
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23. Serafin WE, Austen KF. Mediators of immediate hypersensitivity
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FACTORES DE RIESGO PARA PIE DIABÉTICO EN PACIENTES FACTORES DE RIESGO PARA PIE DIABÉTICO EN PACIENTES El pie diabético es un trastorno de los pies de los pacientes con diabetes mellitus (DM.), provocado por la enfermedad arterial periférica, asociada a neuropatía e infección que en conjunto llevan a esta complicación catastrófica y que puede llevar a amputaciones y múltiples desenlac
Maggio 2012 Numero 109 - Anno 10 Resistenza ed ignoranza. Il 25 aprile è l'anniversario della Libe- Stipendi tagliati. Nonostante le rigide misure di austerità messe in razione, questo gli studenti del liceo classico Parini di Milano lo sanno. atto dal governo di Atene di comune accordo con i creditori interna-Ma da cosa ci si è liberati? «Mi sembra dagli austriaci. O dagli spa