Degranulation of eosinophilic granule cells in neurofibromas and gastrointestinal tract in the bicolor damselfish

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Damselfish neurofibromatosis (DNF) is a neoplastic disease affecting bicolor damselfish (Stegastes partitus Poey) on Florida reefs. Previous studies have demonstrated high densities of eosinophilic granule containing cells (EGC), the proposed equivalent of mast cells in fishes, in neurofibromas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (mpnst) in DNF. These lesions are similar to those in the disease neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) in humans, which contain large numbers of mast cells. In the present study, experiments were conducted to measure the response of EGC in these tumors as well as in the submucosa of the digestive tract to the mast cell degranulating agent compound 48/80. Degranulation of these cells was visible by light microscopy and characterized by conspicuous swelling of granules and often by the presence of free granules adjacent to the EGC. Degranulation occurred by release of intact granules (diacytosis), as reported in other fishes, rather than by fusion of granules with the cell membrane (exocytosis) as reported in mast cells in mammals. Baseline levels of EGC exhibiting degranulation ranged from 20–26% in the submucosa to 30% in tumors. Within 1–2 h of exposure to compound 48/80, significant increases in average levels of degranulation were observed, to 67% in the gut and 72% in tumors. Degranulation was significantly more extensive in the tumors than in the gut. The outermost edges of the tumors contained significantly higher densities of EGC but these cells exhibited lower rates of degranulation than those in the inner regions of tumors. These observations support the hypothesis that the EGC present in neurofibromas and mpnst in DNF are equivalent to the mast cell component in neurofibromas in NF1.

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