Mast cells determine the magnitude of bacterial toxin-induced skin inflammation


Marcus Maurer, MD, Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Allergie-Centrum-Charité, Charité– Universitätmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Tel.: +49 30 450 518 043, Fax: +49 30 450 518 972, e-mail:


Abstract:  Mast cells are known to be important effector cells in innate immune responses to bacterial infections. However, up to now, neither the mechanisms nor the relevance of mast cell degranulation in innate skin immune responses to bacteria have been adequately addressed. In this article, we show that the bacterial toxins streptolysin O (SLO) and α-toxin potently induce degranulation of mast cells in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, intradermal injection of the toxins results in pronounced skin inflammation, which either resolves quickly within a few h (SLO-induced inflammation) or presents a chronic process with ongoing inflammation for weeks (α-toxin). Interestingly, mast cells mediated the inflammatory effects of SLO, but in contrast limited inflammatory skin responses to α-toxin. These findings further support the hypothesis that mast cells are critically involved in initiating and modulating optimal host responses to bacteria by either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory effects, depending on the course of the host reaction induced by the pathogen.