We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Mast Cell?

By Victoria Blackburn
Updated Feb 02, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A mast cell is part of a group of cells called leucocytes. Leucocytes are white blood cells and are found in the blood plasma with erythrocytes, red blood cells. Mast cells have immunological functions, or they are part of the immune system. They form part of an early warning system. When stimulated, they release chemicals that signal either injury or infection and cause an inflammation in the area.

The chemicals that are produced by a mast cell are called mediators. Two common mediators are histamine and heparin. Histamine, the most important chemical mediator, causes capillary walls to become more permeable, or let substances through. Heparin prevents blood from clotting to allow blood to flow to the area of infection or injury. Mast cells play an important role in allergic reactions because of their ability to produce and release histamine.

During an immune response, a mast cell is stimulated by a specific type of antibody, called IgE or immunoglobulin E. Antibodies are grouped into classes based on a chemical chain, or tail, attached to them. There are five classes of antibodies based on the specific amino acid sequence of the chains, A, D, E, G and M. All antibodies are called immunoglobulins, so they are referred to as IgA, IgD, etc.

IgE antibodies attach to the outside of mast cells. All antibodies are specific to particular antigens. The antigen-binding area of the antibodies is left free when they bind to a mast cell. When the mast cell with the antibody attached encounters the specific antigen, the mast cell is stimulated to release histamine.

Histamine is not only released due to encountering a toxic substance, it is also released when mast cells detect injury. It causes nearby blood vessels to dilate allowing more blood to reach the site of the injury or infection. The blood plasma is rich in antibodies and other cells of the immune system. In this way, the mast cells act as an alarm system for the immune cells, attracting them to the required area of infection or injury. The fluid that leaks into the area is what causes swelling during an infection.

Sometimes the body overreacts to foreign substances, which are in fact harmless. Most allergic reactions are due to uncontrolled histamine release when the immune system malfunctions. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are well known, but the underlying cause is less clear. Many of the symptoms of allergies can be attributed to histamine, so what is clear is that mast cells are involved. Anti-histamines block histamine receptors on tissues reducing the effect of histamine on those cells and the subsequent allergic symptoms.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By recapitulate — On Jan 30, 2011

@anon141104, it sounds more likely than anything else. However, maybe an increase in your diet of things like citrus fruits and other fresh fruits and vegetables might help, since those are good for the immune system? Maybe your doctor can also come up with another lifestyle change to help, or possibly you could find some sort of alternative medicine to help with these symptoms.

By anon141104 — On Jan 09, 2011

So i have been diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 4. Recently in the last five or six weeks, maybe longer, I have had these watery eyes; I mean the kind where i look as if I'm sobbing. My sinuses are the same way. If one is leaking, so is the other. The only thing that could indicate I have a cold is I sneeze but it is not a significant number of times for me to really think that at all.

Would it be too much for me to assume this continued water-works thing going on with me could very well be my immune system is gone haywire? I have tried every over Th counter antihistamine there is and my doctor gave me Allegra, no luck with it either. I took it for three days, 180mg's and it started making me sick so I stopped taking it. I guess the question is this: Do you think this is due to my lung cancer and the immune system thing as I have been suspecting?

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.