Mast cells in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease – Activators and actions

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Abstract

Mast cells are potent actors involved in inflammatory reactions in various tissues, including both in the intimal and the adventitial layers of atherosclerotic arteries. In the arterial intima, the site of atherogenesis, mast cells are activated to degranulate, and thereby triggered to release an abundance of preformed inflammatory mediators, notably histamine, heparin, neutral proteases and cytokines stored in their cytoplasmic secretory granules. Depending on the stimulus, mast cell activation may also launch prolonged synthesis and secretion of single bioactive molecules, such as cytokines and derivatives of arachidonic acid. The mast cell-derived mediators may impede the functions of different types of cells present in atherosclerotic lesions, and also compromise the structural and functional integrity of the intimal extracellular matrix. In the adventitial layer of atherosclerotic coronary arteries, mast cells locate next to peptidergic sensory nerve fibers, which, by releasing neuropeptides may activate mast cells to release vasoactive compounds capable of triggering local vasoconstriction. The concerted actions of arterial mast cells have the potential to contribute to the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis, and ultimately to destabilization and rupture of an advanced atherosclerotic plaque with ensuing atherothrombotic complications.

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