It is now established that the subclasses of mast cells (MC) that reside in mucosal and serosal environments can be distinguished from one another in terms of their expression of specific secretory granule-localized proteases and proteoglycans. Further, the hematopoietic- and connective tissue-derived cytokines that regulate expression of the genes that encode these constituents of the granule can now be identified using recently developed gene-specific probes and recombinant cytokines. When bone marrow-derived MC (BMMC) were developed with recombinant interleukin 3 (rIL-3) and maintained with this cytokine in the absence or presence of recombinant c-kit ligand (rKL), they remained safranin-, produced almost no 35S-labeled heparin proteoglycans, and contained greater levels of mouse MC protease (MMCP) -5 mRNA and mast cell carboxypeptidase A (MC-CPA) mRNA than MMCP-6 mRNA. They did not contain MMCP-4 or -2 mRNA, genes expressed late in the differentiation of progenitor cells into serosal and mucosal MCs, respectively. In contrast, BMMC developed with rKL alone or by sequential culture in medium containing rIL-3 followed by rKL expressed high levels of MMCP-4 and -6 mRNA, as well as the transcripts that encode MMCP-5 and MC-CPA. Although rKL-developed BMMC were safranin+ and produced substantial amounts of 35S-labeled heparin proteoglycans, they contained only minimal amounts of histamine and MC-CPA enzymatic activity relative to serosal MC. These are the first studies to characterize the transcriptional granule phenotype of a population of BMMC derived using any recombinant cytokine, to demonstrate a dissociation between histochemical staining and granule maturation, and to demonstrate antagonistic regulation of late expressed protease genes by a cytokine.

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