Mast cells (MCs) are primarily resident hematopoietic tissue cells that are localized at external and internal surfaces of the body where they act in the first line of defense. MCs are found in all studied vertebrates and have also been identified in tunicates, an early chordate. To obtain a detailed insight into the biology of MCs, here we analyzed the transcriptome of MCs from different mouse organs by RNA-seq and PCR-based transcriptomics. We show that MCs at different tissue locations differ substantially in their levels of transcripts coding for the most abundant MC granule proteins, even within the connective tissue type, or mucosal MC niches. We also demonstrate that transcript levels for the major granule proteins, including the various MC-restricted proteases and the heparin core protein, can be several orders of magnitude higher than those coding for various surface receptors and enzymes involved in protease activation, as well as enzymes involved in the synthesis of heparin, histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. Interestingly, our analyses revealed an almost complete absence in MCs of transcripts coding for cytokines at baseline conditions, indicating that cytokines are primarily produced by activated MCs. Bone marrow-derived MCs (BMMCs) are often used as equivalents of tissue MCs. Here, we show that these cells differ substantially from tissue MCs with regard to their transcriptome. Notably, they showed a transcriptome indicative of relatively immature cells, both with respect to the expression of granule proteases and of various enzymes involved in the processing/synthesis of granule compounds, indicating that care should be taken when extrapolating findings from BMMCs to the in vivo function of tissue-resident MCs. Furthermore, the latter finding indicates that the development of fully mature tissue-resident MCs requires a cytokine milieu beyond what is needed for in vitro differentiation of BMMCs. Altogether, this study provides a comprehensive quantitative view of the transcriptome profile of MCs resident at different tissue locations that builds nicely on previous studies of both the mouse and human transcriptome, and form a solid base for future evolutionary studies of the role of MCs in vertebrate immunity.
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