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Cell-to-cell contact of activated mast cells with fibroblasts and lymphocytes in systemic sclerosis
  1. Thomas Hügle1,
  2. Kathryn White2,
  3. Jacob M van Laar3
  1. 1Department of Rheumatology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  2. 2EM research services, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3Musculoskeletal Research Group, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Thomas Hügle, Department of Rheumatology, Felix-Platter-Spital Basel, University Hospital, Burgfelderstr. 101, Basel 4012, Switzerland; Thomas.Huegle{at}

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Mast cells (MC) are bone marrow derived granulated cells which mature and reside within the connective tissue. MC can release a variety of preformed mediators such as histamine, proteases, cytokines, growth factors and proteoglycans by degranulation.1 In inflammation, activated MC orchestrate the infiltration of leucocytes2 ,3 and present antigen to lymphocytes.4 MC directly activate fibroblasts via gap junctions5 and coculture of MC with fibroblasts in vitro stimulates collagen production and enhances collagen contraction.6 MC also regulate the proliferation of neighbouring fibroblasts. This effect is dependent on heterotypic cell-to-cell contact and requires the release of interleukin (IL)-4 by MC.7

MC have been implicated in systemic sclerosis (SSc) pathology based on their increased numbers and degranulation in skin.8 We showed recently that MC are a main source of transforming growth factor-β, a major profibrotic mediator.9 In order to …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Approval provided by the Ethical Committee Newcastle upon Tyne and Middlesbrough, UK.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.