Morphological and functional characteristics of peritoneal mast cells from young rats
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To study why neonatal and young rats are resistant to the effects of some secretagogues, such as compound 48/80 and 2.5-S nerve growth factor, we examined peritoneal mast cells from 14-15-day-old rats (young rats) and compared them to peritoneal mast cells from adults. Peritoneal mast cells from young rats contain approximately one-tenth of the amount of histamine observed in adult peritoneal mast cells. However, both cell populations contained similar low levels of the mucosal mast cell-associated protease rat mast cell protease II. Histochemical analysis of peritoneal mast cells from young rats using safranin O and berberine sulphate suggested that only a portion of the granules of these cells contained heparin. At an ultrastructural level the young rat peritoneal mast cell contains relatively few granules. The majority of mast cells from young rats have a bilobed or indented nucleus which is only rarely observed in adult cells. Functionally, the young rat peritoneal mast cell demonstrates a significantly reduced histamine release in response to the connective tissue mast cell-specific secretagogues compound 48/80 and 2.5-S nerve growth factor. In contrast, the percent histamine release in response to the neurotransmitter substance P, which degranulates both connective tissue mast cells and intestinal mucosal mast cells, was similar in the adult cells and the young rat cells. This study demonstrates substantial differences between the young rat and adult peritoneal mast cells which may explain the ability of very young animals to withstand large doses of certain secretagogues.
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