The skin sites of the mouse where delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions are most easily elicited (foot pads and ears) are particularly rich in 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-containing mast cells. Since mice are deficient in circulating basophils, which play a role in at least some DTH reactions, we investigated the possibility that the mast cells were playing an important role in the evolution of the skin reactions of DTH in mice. We found that reserpine, a drug which depletes mast cells of 5-HT, abolished the ability of the mouse to make DTH reactions in the skin. The suppressive effect of reserpine could be partially blocked by monoamine oxidase inhibitors which prevent the degradation of 5-HT in the cytosol of the mast cell. Spleen cells of immune, reserpine-treated mice transferred DTH reactions to nonimmune mice normally, indicating that the reserpine treatment did not affect immune T cells. DTH reactions could not be transferred into reserpine-treated mice. We suggest that T cells are continually emigrating from the blood, through postcapillary venule endothelium, by a mechanism which does not depend on vasoactive amines. If they are appropriately immune and meet the homologous antigen in the tissue, they induce mast cells to release vasoactive amines which cause postcapillary venule endothelial cells to separate, allowing the egress from the blood of cells which ordinarily do not recirculate. The secondarily arriving vasoactive amine-dependent cells are responsible for the micro- and macroscopic lesions of DTH reactions. Chemotactic factors may also be involved in bringing cells to the DTH reaction sites but we propose that T-cell regulation of vasoactive amine-containing cells allows the effector cells to pass through the endothelial gates after they are called.

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