Histochemical heterogeneity of dermal mast cells in athymic and normal rats

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Histochem J. 1988 Jan;20(1):19-28.

Aldenborg F, Enerbäck L.

Department of Pathology, Gothenburg University, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.

Abstract

Mucosal mast cells (MMC) and connective tissue mast cells (CTMC) of the rat contain different proteoglycans, which can be distinguished using histochemical methods. The chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan of the MMC, unlike the heparin of the CTMC, does not show fluorescent berberine binding, is susceptible to aldehyde fixatives and stains preferentially with Alcian Blue in a staining sequence with Safranin. The majority of the dermal mast cells are typical CTMC and are located in the deep part of the dermis. Subepidermal mast cells are comparatively few in normal rats but numerous in athymic rats and mice. These cells differ from other dermal mast cells in that they stain preferentially with Alcian Blue and they appear to contain little histamine. We examined some of the histochemical properties of the skin mast cells of female PVG-rnu/rnu rats and their heterozygous littermates aged from 5 to 29 weeks. The thiazine dye-binding of the subepidermal mast cells was partially blocked by formaldehyde fixation and only about half of them showed a weakly fluorescent berberine binding. The critical electrolyte concentration of the Alcian Blue staining of the subepidermal mast cells was between that of CTMC and MMC. Deaminative cleavage with nitrous acid abolished the staining of all skin mast cells, while that of the MMC was unaffected. There were no statistically significant differences in the staining patterns of the dermal mast cells between different ages or groups of rat. These results indicate that the subepidermal mast cells contain a heparin proteoglycan which is, however, different from that of the typical CTMC of other sites. They thus appear to represent a second example of a mast cell within a defined anatomical location exhibiting a distinct proteoglycan expression.

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