There are many parallels between allergic and autoimmune responses. Both are considered hypersensitivity responses: pathologies that are elicited by an exuberant reaction to antigens that do not pose any inherent danger to the organism. Although mast cells have long been recognized as central players in allergy, only recently has their role in autoimmunity become apparent. Because of the commonalities of these responses, much of what we have learned about the underlying mast cell–dependent mechanisms of inflammatory damage in allergy and asthma can be used to understand autoimmunity. Here we review mast cell biology in the context of autoimmune disease. We discuss the huge diversity in mast cell responses that can exert either proinflammatory or antiinflammatory activity. We also consider the myriad factors that cause one response to predominate over another in a particular immune setting.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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