Mast cells (MCs) are immune cells of the myeloid lineage that are present in the connective tissue throughout the body and in mucosa tissue. They originate from hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow and circulate as MC progenitors in the blood. After migration to various tissues, they differentiate into their mature form, which is characterized by a phenotype containing large granules enriched in a variety of bioactive compounds, including histamine and heparin. These cells can be activated in a receptor-dependent and -independent manner. Particularly, the activation of the high-affinity immunoglobulin E (IgE) receptor, also known as FcεRI, that is expressed on the surface of MCs provoke specific signaling cascades that leads to intracellular calcium influx, activation of different transcription factors, degranulation, and cytokine production. Therefore, MCs modulate many aspects in physiological and pathological conditions, including wound healing, defense against pathogens, immune tolerance, allergy, anaphylaxis, autoimmune defects, inflammation, and infectious and other disorders. In the liver, MCs are mainly associated with connective tissue located in the surrounding of the hepatic arteries, veins, and bile ducts. Recent work has demonstrated a significant increase in MC number during hepatic injury, suggesting an important role of these cells in liver disease and progression. In the present review, we summarize aspects of MC function and mediators in experimental liver injury, their interaction with other hepatic cell types, and their contribution to the pathogenesis of fibrosis.
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