Mast cell proteases.
Mast cells (MCs) are traditionally thought of as a nuisance for its host, for example, by causing many of the symptoms associated with allergic reactions. In addition, recent research has put focus on MCs for displaying harmful effects during various autoimmune disorders. On the other hand, MCs can also be beneficial for its host, for example, by contributing to the defense against insults such as bacteria, parasites, and snake venom toxins. When the MC is challenged by an external stimulus, it may respond by degranulation. In this process, a number of powerful preformed inflammatory "mediators" are released, including cytokines, histamine, serglycin proteoglycans, and several MC-specific proteases: chymases, tryptases, and carboxypeptidase A. Although the exact effector mechanism(s) by which MCs carry out their either beneficial or harmful effects in vivo are in large parts unknown, it is reasonable to assume that these mediators may contribute in profound ways. Among the various MC mediators, the exact biological function of the MC proteases has for a long time been relatively obscure. However, recent progress involving successful genetic targeting of several MC protease genes has generated powerful tools, which will enable us to unravel the role of the MC proteases both in normal physiology as well as in pathological settings. This chapter summarizes the current knowledge of the biology of the MC proteases.DOI: