To cite this article: Andersson CK, Tufvesson E, Aronsson D, Bergqvist A, Mori M, Bjermer L, Erjefält JS. Alveolar mast cells shift to an FcεRI-expressing phenotype in mild atopic asthma: a novel feature in allergic asthma pathology. Allergy 2011; 66: 1590–1597.
Background: A unique feature of alveolar mast cells is their low high-affinity IgE receptor (FcεRI) expression. Recent discoveries in uncontrolled asthma suggest that the appearance of FcεRI-expressing alveolar mast cells may be a novel disease-specific feature of allergic asthma. This study investigates whether increased FcεRI-expressing alveolar mast cells are present in patients with mild allergic asthma or even in non-asthmatic allergic rhinitis patients (AR) who have developed bronchial hyperactivity (BHR).
Methods: Bronchial and alveolar tissues were obtained from healthy controls, AR patients with or without BHR, and AR patients with concurrent asthma. Samples were processed for immunohistochemical identification of MCT and MCTC and expression of FcεRI and surface-bound IgE.
Results: Bronchial mast cell expression of FcεRI was high in all groups. In contrast, in the alveolar tissue, the expression of FcεRI on mast cells was low in healthy controls and in the AR patient groups, whereas a high expression was present in AR patients with concurrent asthma (P = 0.006 compared to controls). The asthmatics had a 29-fold increase in numbers (P = 0.006) and a 19-fold increase in proportion (P = 0.007) of alveolar mast cells that expressed surface-bound IgE.
Conclusions: The present data show that alveolar mast cells in patients with mild atopic asthma, but not atopic patients with AR, have turned into a highly FcεRI- and IgE-expressing phenotype. These data support the hypothesis that increased FcεRI expression on alveolar mast cells is a novel disease-specific feature of allergic asthma that is important for understanding asthma phenotypes and designing new therapeutic strategies.