Evidence for altered mast cell proliferation and apoptosis in cutaneous mastocytosis
Mastocytosis presents as a focal or generalized increase of mast cells, particularly in the skin, but also in other organs. Activating mutations of KIT (formerly c-kit), the receptor of the mast cell growth factor stem cell factor (SCF), appear to play a key role in the pathogenesis of sporadic adult onset mastocytosis. However, these mutations are not present in childhood-onset and familial mastocytosis and also fail to explain the heterogeneity of adult-onset disease. Other factors such as prolonged survival of mast cells may therefore participate in causing and modulating the pathological increase of mast cells in mastocytosis.Objectives
To examine the expression of proliferation and apoptosis markers in the mast cells of cutaneous mastocytosis lesions in order to gain further insight into the pathogenesis of mastocytosis.Methods
Lesional cutaneous biopsies from eight infants with solitary mastocytomas, five children with multiple mastocytomas, 11 children with generalized urticaria pigmentosa, 12 adults with urticaria pigmentosa, and skin from seven normal controls were used in this study. Serial sections were stained with toluidine blue to quantify mast cell numbers and with antibodies against the proliferation marker Ki67 protein, the tumour suppressor protein p53, and the inhibitor of cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases p21WAF1/CIP1, using the alkaline phosphatase antialkaline phosphatase technique. The terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL) method was used to assess apoptosis.Results
Cutaneous mast cell counts were significantly increased in all patient sections, particularly in childhood lesions, and similarly, a small but significant increase of proliferation was found in the lesional mast cells of all patients. Enhanced mast cell numbers and proliferation was associated with a significant decrease of TUNEL staining, particularly in mastocytomas. p53 expression was highly variable, with an overall significant increase in all patient skin mast cells, whereas p21 expression was barely observed at all.Conclusions
These findings further support the concept that an imbalance of mast cell proliferation and apoptosis is prevalent in mastocytosis lesions that may account in part for the increased focal mast cell accumulation in this condition.