Microbes taming mast cells: Implications for allergic inflammation and beyond
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There is increasing awareness of a relationship between our microbiota and the pathogenesis of allergy and other inflammatory diseases. In investigating the mechanisms underlying microbiota modulation of allergy the focus has been on the induction phase; alterations in the phenotype and function of antigen presenting cells, induction of regulatory T cells and shifts in Th1/Th2 balance. However there is evidence that microbes can influence the effector phase of disease, specifically that certain potentially beneficial bacteria can attenuate mast cell activation and degranulation. Furthermore, it appears that different non-pathogenic bacteria can utilize distinct mechanisms to stabilize mast cells, acting locally though direct interaction with the mast cell at mucosal sites or attenuating systemic mast cell dependent responses, likely through indirect signaling mechanisms. The position of mast cells on the frontline of defense against pathogens also suggests they may play an important role in fostering the host-microbiota relationship. Mast cells are also conduits of neuro-immuo-endocrine communication, suggesting the ability of microbes to modulate cell responses may have implications for host physiology beyond immunology. Further investigation of mast cell regulation by non-pathogenic or symbiotic bacteria will likely lead to a greater understanding of host microbiota interaction and the role of the microbiome in health and disease.
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