Pharmacologic inhibition of Notch signaling suppresses food antigen–induced mucosal mast cell hyperplasia

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Background:Mucosal mast cells (MMCs) play a central role in the development of symptoms associated with IgE-mediated food allergy. Recently, Notch2-mediated signaling was shown to be involved in proper MMC distribution in the intestinal tract.Objective:This study aimed to clarify the mechanism by which Notch signaling regulates MMC distribution in the intestinal mucosa. Furthermore, pharmacologic inhibition of Notch signaling was evaluated as a treatment for symptoms associated with experimental food allergy.Methods:Bone marrow–derived mast cells generated from mice were cultured with Notch ligands, and then expression of genes associated with MMCs was measured in the cells. In addition, the effect of an inhibitor of Notch signaling on food antigen–induced allergic reactions was examined in a mouse model of food allergy.Results:Notch signaling induced MMC differentiation through upregulation of expression of genes characteristic of MMCs in the presence of IL-3. Some lamina propria cells isolated from the mouse small intestine expressed Notch ligands and were able to upregulate MMC markers in bone marrow–derived mast cells through Notch signaling. In a mouse model of food allergy, administration of a Notch signaling inhibitor led to suppression of food antigen–induced hyperplasia of intestinal MMCs, resulting in alleviation of allergic diarrhea and systemic anaphylaxis.Conclusion:Notch signaling contributes to differentiation and accumulation of MMCs in the intestinal mucosa. Thus inhibition of Notch signaling alleviates symptoms associated with experimental food allergy. These results raise the possibility that Notch signaling in mast cells is a novel target for therapy in patients with food allergy.

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