Long-term cultures of mast cells: a new model for studying the allergic response

F. Levi-Schaffer*, M. Shalit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Mast cells are the key cells of allergic reactions and probably play also a role in chronic inflammatory reactions resulting in fibrosis. Although their biochemical and functional properties have been extensively investigated, several studies have been hampered by the absence of a tissue culture system to keep these cells alive and functionally active for long periods of time. Recently we have developed an in vitro system in which rat peritoneal mast cells are cocultured with 3T3 mouse skin derived fibroblasts (MC/3T3). Under these tissue culture conditions, mast cells do not proliferate and maintain their viability and functional activity for more than a month. This system allowed us to carry out long-term studies on the functional properties of mast cells. We have found that mast cells activated both by IgE-dependent and IgE-independent stimuli survive, and slowly replenish their histamine content. After a non-immunological challenge mast cells retain their full potential to release histamine upon a repeated similar challenge. In contrast, immunologically challenged mast cells become partially unresponsive to a similar activation event for up to 3 weeks. By exploiting this long-term culture system we described a novel type of mast cell activation induced by cytokines. The onset of this activation is slow and its course appears to be chronic-continuous, very different from the classical anaphylactic type activation that is completed within few minutes. Since MC/3T3 release higher amounts of histamine, this system is a sensitive tool to investigate the antiallergic properties of various drugs. By employing MC/3T3 cultures we were able to show that the gold salt auranofin inhibits histamine release from mast cells stimulated by different secretagogues. In addition, salbutamol inhibited histamine release from repeatedly challenged mast cells; and nedocromil sodium was effective in preventing mast cell activation when incubated for a week with MC/3T3. The MC/3T3 system will allow us in the future to further investigate biochemical, functional and pharmacological characteristics of mast cells.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)307-317
Number of pages11
JournalPharmacological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991


  • fibroblasts
  • long-term cultures
  • mast cell biochemical
  • mast cells
  • pharmacological characterization


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