Direct neurite-mast cell communication in vitro occurs via the neuropeptide substance P.
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Communication between nerves and mast cells is a prototypic demonstration of neuroimmune interaction. However, whether mast cell activation occurs as a direct response to neuronal activation or requires an intermediary cell is unclear. Addressing this issue, we used an in vitro coculture approach comprising cultured murine superior cervical ganglia and rat leukemia basophilic cells (RBLs; possesses properties of mucosal-type mast cells). Following loading with the calcium fluorophore, Fluo-3, neurite-RBL units (separated by <50 nm) were examined by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Addition of bradykinin, or scorpion venom, dose-dependently elicited neurite activation (i.e., Ca2+ mobilization) and, after a lag period, RBL Ca2+ mobilization. Neither bradykinin nor scorpion venom had any direct effect on the RBLs in the absence of neurites. Addition of a neutralizing substance P Ab or a neurokinin (NK)-1 receptor antagonist, but not an NK-2 receptor antagonist, dose-dependently prevented the RBL activation that resulted as a consequence of neural activation by either bradykinin or scorpion venom. These data illustrate that nerve-mast cell cross-talk can occur in the absence of an intermediary transducing cell and that the neuropeptide substance P, operating via NK-1 receptors, is an important mediator of this communication. Our findings have implications for the neuroimmune signaling cascades that are likely to occur during airways inflammation, intestinal hypersensitivity, and other conditions in which mast cells feature.
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