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Mast Cell Modulation Of B Cell Responses: An Under-Appreciated Partnership In Host Defence

Alejandro M. Palma, Mark R. Hanes, Jean S. Marshall

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Mast cells are well known to be activated via cross-linking of immunoglobulins bound to surface receptors. They are also recognized as key initiators and regulators of both innate and adaptive immune responses against pathogens, especially in the skin and mucosal surfaces. Substantial attention has been given to the role of mast cells in regulating T cell function either directly or indirectly through actions on dendritic cells. In contrast, the ability of mast cells to modify B cell responses has been less explored. Several lines of evidence suggest that mast cells can greatly modify B cell generation and activities. Mast cells co-localise with B cells in many tissue settings and produce substantial amounts of cytokines, such as IL-6, with profound impacts on B cell development, class-switch recombination events, and subsequent antibody production. Mast cells have also been suggested to modulate the development and functions of regulatory B cells. In this review, we discuss the critical impacts of mast cells on B cells using information from both clinical and laboratory studies and consider the implications of these findings on the host response to infections.