The role of mast cells accumulating in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) lungs is unknown.
We investigated the effect of fibrotic extracellular matrix (ECM) on mast cells in experimental and human pulmonary fibrosis.
In IPF lungs, mast cell numbers were increased and correlated with disease severity (control vs 60%<FVC<90%, mean difference=-222.7, 95% CI −386.3 to −59.2, p=0.004; control vs FVC<60%, mean difference=−301.7, 95% CI of difference −474.1 to −129.34, p=0.0001; FVC>90% vs 60%<FVC<90%, mean difference=−189.6, 95% CI of difference −353.1 to −26.03, p=0.017; FVC>90% vs FVC<60%, mean difference=−268.6, 95% CI of difference −441.0 to −96.17, p=0.0007). Plasma tryptase levels were increased in IPF and negatively correlated with FVC (control vs FVC<60%, mean difference=−17.12, 95% CI of difference −30.02 to −4.22, p=0.006: correlation curves R=−0.045, p=0.025). In a transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1-induced pulmonary fibrosis model, chymase-positive and tryptase-positive mast cells accumulated in fibrotic lung. Lung tissue was decellularised and reseeded with bone marrow or peritoneum-derived mast cells; cells on fibrotic ECM released more TGF-β1 compared with normal ECM (active TGF-β1: bone marrow-derived mast cell (BMMC)-DL vs BMMC-TGF-β1 p=0.0005, peritoneal mast cell (PMC)-DL vs PMC-TGF-β1 p=0.0003, total TGF-β1: BMMC-DL vs BMMC-TGF-β1 p=0.013, PMC-DL vs PMC-TGF-β1 p=0.001). Mechanical stretch of lungs caused mast cell degranulation; mast cell stabilisers inhibited degranulation (histamine: cont vs doxantrazole p=0.004, β-hexosaminidase: cont vs doxantrazole, mean difference=1.007, 95% CI of difference 0.2700 to 1.744, p=0.007) and TGF-β1 activation (pSmad2/Smad2: cont vs dox p=0.006). Cromoglycate attenuated pulmonary fibrosis in rats (collagen: phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) vs cromoglycate p=0.036, fibrotic area: PBS vs cromoglycate p=0.031).
This study suggests that mast cells may contribute to the progression of pulmonary fibrosis.