Mast cells are involved in allergic reactions, but may also participate in neurogenic inflammation. The morphology of mast cells in rat dura mater and tongue was evaluated by histochemistry, as well as by scanning and transmission electron microscopy following unilateral trigeminal ganglion stimulation (5 min, S Hz, 5 ms, and 0.02, 0. l or l .0 mA). Mast cells in dura and tongue of normal animals were numerous, perivascular and often in close proximity to nerve fibers. After 5 min of electrical stimulation, mast cells contralateral to the stimulation showed histochemical characteristics of normal peripheral tissue mast cells (Safranin-positive), and by electron microscopy appeared homogeneous with numerous intact electron-dense granules. On the stimulated side, however, the staining characteristics of mast cells showed changes indicating progressive intracellular loss of their granular content. In addition, the total number of stainable mast cells decreased at all three stimulus intensities, but reached significance only at 0.1 and 0.02mA. Ultrastructural evidence of granule changes consistent with secretion were observed although degranulation was not observed until 20 min after stimulation. There were no mast cell changes after electrical trigeminal stimulation in adult rats treated as neonates with capsaicin to destroy small caliber sensory afferent axons. These results suggest that mast cells may secrete in response to electrical stimulation of trigeminal axons, possibly mediated by antidromic release of neuropeptides, and may participate in the development of neurogenic inflammation.
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