Mast cells are powerful effector cells that play an important role in allergies, autoimmunity, inflammation and protective antibacterial and antiparasitic immune responses. Widely distributed throughout the body with a particular prevalence at sites in contact with the environment, such as skin, gut and airways, activated mast cells release a high number of preformed and newly synthesized mediators. These include cytokines, chemokines, histamine, serglycin proteoglycans and several mast cell specific proteases. This plethora of molecules enables mast cells to control both homeostasis in tissues as well as the initiation and maintenance of appropriate, selective, and effective immune responses.
Mast cells are critically involved in several skin disorders including both acute and chronic inflammatory processes. Our current research is therefore focused on understanding the mechanisms and requirements for selective secretion of mast cell mediators so as to control mast activation in pathological conditions. Our goals are 1) to investigate selected mechanisms and mediators which de-activate mast cell activation and degranulation; 2) to identify meanings and outcomes of mast cell interactions with other immune cells in disease; 3) to understand the functional significance of mast cell heterogeneity in tissue remodelling and disease chronicity. The characterization of mast cell-driven pathways in inflammation should enable to identify means of influencing acute and chronic inflammatory diseases.