Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Mast cell typing: demonstration of a distinct hematopoietic cell type and evidence for immunophenotypic relationship to mononuclear phagocytes

  1. P Valent,
  2. LK Ashman,
  3. W Hinterberger,
  4. F Eckersberger,
  5. O Majdic,
  6. K Lechner, and
  7. P Bettelheim
  1. I. Medical Department, University of Vienna, Austria.


The immunologic surface marker profile of human mast cells (MCs) was established using a combined toluidine/immunofluorescence staining procedure [49 monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) tested]. Ascites (n = 9) MCs as well as enzymatically dispersed MCs from all organs tested (lung n = 11, skin n = 7, intestinum n = 10) exhibited an identical marker profile. MCs were recognized by MoAbs clustered as CD9 (anti-gp24), CD33 (anti-gp67), and CD45 (anti-gp220) as well as by MoAbs directed against membrane-bound IgE. MoAB YB5B8 (anti-gp145) selectively recognized MCs. Most significantly, however, MCs were stained by MoAbs MAX1 (anti-gp65), MAX3 (anti-gp68), MAX11 (anti-gp65), and MAX24 (anti- gp65). These antibodies bind to surface membrane antigens associated with a late stage of monocyte/macrophage differentiation. Thus, our results provide definite evidence that MCs share surface membrane markers with mononuclear phagocytes. In contrast, MCs are stained neither by lymphatic markers (CD1–8, 10, 19–24) nor by myelomonocytic markers (CD11–17). MCs also lack the interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor (CD25), the T10 antigen (CD38), and most of the myelocytic markers expressed on peripheral blood (PB) basophils. Thus, MCs displayed a unique phenotype within the hematopoietic system. This new approach enabled us to enrich human lung MCs to a purity greater than 95% by means of negative selection with complement-mediated cell lysis. Purified MCs were subsequently stained with MoAbs and analyzed by flow cytometry, which confirmed the results obtained from the double- staining experiments. We next examined cultured metachromatic cells derived from bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood colony-forming units (CFU). These metachromatic cells previously could not be classified by morphologic criteria alone and have therefore been termed basophil- like/MC-like cells. In this study, toluidine blue-positive cells obtained from either pooled multipotential colonies (day 14-CFU-GEM) or pooled myelocytic colonies (day 16/17-CFU-GM/G/M) were recognized by MoAbs MY7 (CD13), VIM12 (CD11b), and VIM2, as well as by an anti-IgE MoAb, after preincubation with IgE. In contrast, CFU-derived metachromatic cells were not stained by MoAb YB5B8. This marker profile corresponds to the immunologic phenotype of blood basophils and excluded a detectable formation of mature MCs in colonies derived from cultured hematopoietic stem cells.