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Abstract

Multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions are associated with infiltration of T lymphocytes and macrophages that appear to mediate myelin destruction and gliosis (scarring). Mast cells are located perivascularly in the brain, are juxtaposed to neurons, and have been shown to secrete vasoactive and inflammatory mediators in response to neuropeptides and direct nerve stimulation. Mast cells have been previously identified in MS lesions, are activated by myelin basic protein, and can participate in the regulation of blood–brain barrier permeability, as well as in myelin destruction. Here, cerebrospinal fluid from MS patients and controls with other neurologic diseases was assayed for histamine, its major metabolite methylhistamine, and the specific mast cell marker tryptase. Histamine and methylhistamine were not elevated in MS. However, the mast cell specific proteolytic enzyme tryptase was significantly elevated in MS, suggesting that mast cell activation may be involved in the pathophysiology of this disease.