Central nervous system neurons acquire mast cell products via transgranulation

M. Wilhelm, R. Silver, Ann Judith Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Citations (Scopus)


Resting and actively degranulating mast cells are found on the brain side of the blood-brain barrier. In the periphery, exocytosis of mast cell granules results in the release of soluble mediators and insoluble granule remnants. These mast cell constituents are found in a variety of nearby cell types, acquired by fusion of granule and cellular membranes or by cellular capture of mast cell granule remnants. These phenomena have not been studied in the brain. In the current work, light and electron microscopic studies of the medial habenula of the dove brain revealed that mast cell-derived material can enter neurons in three ways: by direct fusion of the granule and plasma membranes (mast cell and neuron); by capture of insoluble granule remnants and, potentially, via receptor-mediated endocytosis of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, a soluble mediator derived from the mast cell. These processes result in differential subcellular localization of mast cell material in neurons, including free in the neuronal cytoplasm, membrane-bound in granule-like compartments or in association with small vesicles and the trans-Golgi network. Capture of granule remnants is the most frequently observed form of neuronal acquisition of mast cell products and correlates quantitatively with mast cells undergoing piecemeal degranulation. The present study indicates that mast cell-derived products can enter neurons, a process termed transgranulation, indicating a novel form of brain-immune system communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2238-2248
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


  • Dove
  • Gonadal steroids
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone
  • Mast cell activation
  • Medial habenula
  • Neuro-immune interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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