Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
It has become clear that the immune and nervous systems communicate constantly to maintain homeostasis and a coordinated and continuing adaptive response to an ever-changing environment. Evidence from mast cell nerve communication, as an example of this interaction, has been obtained in a variety of tissues and circumstances, most especially in the intestine and skin. Bidirectional communication has been shown in vivo, ex vivo, in vitro and in coculture experiments involving the two cell types. Examples will be given of these various situations and involve normal physiological situations and those involved in response to infection and inflammation as well as in response to ultraviolet light. More recent examples of the importance of mast cells in the regulation of central nervous activity including the secretion of hormones by the pituitary gland, and thereby the regulation of the HPA axis as well as involvement in behavioural change will be addressed. Through its potential communication with the nervous system, the mast cell can be regarded as a sentinel cell or receptor, especially located at surfaces exposed to the environment, which specifically and non-specifically react to molecules and substances, foreign to the organism, so as to help orchestrate the complex and integrated responses required to maintain homeostasis.
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