A mast cell (also known as a mastocyte) is a type of white blood cell. Specifically, it is a type of granulocyte derived from the myeloid stem cell that is a part of the immune and neuroimmune systems and contains many granules rich in histamine and heparin. Although best known for their role in allergy and anaphylaxis, mast cells play an important protective role as well, being intimately involved in wound healing, angiogenesis, immune tolerance, defense against pathogens, and blood–brain barrier function.
The mast cell is very similar in both appearance and function to the basophil, another type of white blood cell. Although mast cells were once thought to be tissue resident basophils, it has been shown that the two cells develop from different hematopoietic lineages and thus cannot be the same cells.
Neuroendocrinology of mast cells: Challenges and Controversies. 2017
Mast cells are located perivascularly and express numerous receptors for diverse ligands such as allergens, pathogens, neurotransmitters, neuropeptides and hormones including acetylcholine, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), corticosteroids, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), β-endorphin, epinephrine, 17β-estradiol, gonadotrophins, hemokinin-A (HKA), leptin, melatonin, neurotensin (NT), parathyroid hormone (PTH), substance P (SP) and vasoactive instestinal peptide (VIP).