Journal Information
Vol. 39. Issue 2.
Pages 97-98 (February 2020)
Download PDF
More article options
Vol. 39. Issue 2.
Pages 97-98 (February 2020)
Editorial comment
DOI: 10.1016/j.repce.2020.05.006
Open Access
Mast cells: Promoters of myocardial fibrosis in hypertensive heart disease?
Mastócitos: promotores da fibrose miocárdica na doença hipertensiva cardíaca?
Rosa Henriques de Gouveia
Pathological Anatomy, Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal e Ciências Forenses, Coimbra, Portugal
Article information
Full Text
Download PDF
Full Text

Myocardial fibrosis – perivascular, interstitial or replacement (scar)1 – is the endpoint of various pathological settings, often leading to dismal outcomes, including heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden death. In hypertensive heart disease, patterns of perivascular and interstitial myocardial fibrosis are common and may easily be shown and graded, in formalin-fixed samples, with histochemical stains such as Masson trichrome, elastic Van Gieson, or picrosirius red.2

Experimental and human studies1 have demonstrated that myocardial fibrosis is the result of various promoters, among which are mast cells.3–10 Discovered and named by the Nobel prize-winning German physician Paul Ehrlich in 1878,3 mast cells are immune cells derived from bone marrow precursors and resident in tissues. They are usually classified as typical if located in connective tissue such as the myocardium, or atypical if located elsewhere, and as MCT if their granules contain tryptase, MCC if they contain chymase or MCTC if they contain both proteases.3,4 Anti-chymase or anti-tryptase antibodies are used for immunohistochemical identification of mast cells in situ.9 Mast cells are also known have a wide range of mediators (histamine, cytokines, growth factors and vasoactive agents) that affect tissue remodeling as pro- or anti-fibrotic agents.4–7 The effect of cardiac mast cells on myocardial fibrosis may result both from degranulation and from de novo secretion of mediators common to other cells, including tumor necrosis factor alpha and beta, interleukin 4 and platelet-derived growth factor, as well as from the roles of chymase and/or tryptase.1 The fibrogenic action of chymase may follow two pathways: the formation of angiotensin II through activation of the angiotensin-converting enzyme-independent chymase pathway, and activation of matrix metalloproteinases.1,4,7 Tryptase activates fibroblast proliferation and collagen I synthesis, mainly by activating protease-activated receptor-2.1

There is controversy concerning the pro-fibrotic and anti-fibrotic phenotypes of mast cells: whether the phenotypes can switch depending on the environment and genetics, and whether fibrotic tissue can regress as a consequence of a switch to the anti-fibrotic version; what are the key points of therapeutic intervention; and other questions.

Some authors point out limitations in research into human cardiac fibrosis and its relation to mast cells, due both to the characteristics of the samples used, whether obtained from biopsy or autopsy, and to the difficulty in obtaining normal control tissue.7 Myocardial biopsies are limited in their size and location, although if morphological alterations are identified and appropriate complementary techniques are applied, useful data may be obtained. Furthermore, despite the difficulties in preserving autopsy material, if basic preservative measures are routinely applied, it may provide large quantities of disease samples and normal controls, as exemplified by the study by Juliano et al. published in this issue of the Journal.9

Conflicts of interest

The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.


To Prof. Doutor Nuno Cardim for the invitation to write this article.

G.N. Frangogiannis.
Cardiac fibrosis: cell biological mechanisms, molecular pathways and therapeutic opportunities.
Mol Aspects Med, 65 (2019), pp. 70-99
A.-M. Braşoveanu, L. Mogoantă, G.D. Mălăescu, et al.
Hypertensive cardiomyopathy – histopathological and immunohistochemical aspects.
Rom J Morphol Embryol, 60 (2019), pp. 487-494
D. Atiakshin, I. Buchwalow, M. Tiemann.
Mast cell chymase: morphofunctional characteristics.
Histochem Cell Biol, 152 (2019), pp. 253-269
S.P. Levick, A. Widiapradja.
Mast cells: key contributors to cardiac fibrosis.
Int J Mol Sci, 19 (2018), pp. 231
S.P. Levick, G.C. Meléndez, E. Plante, et al.
Cardiac mast cells: the centerpiece in adverse myocardial remodeling.
Cardiovasc Res, 89 (2011), pp. 12-19
P. Bradding, G. Pejler.
The controversial role of mast cells in fibrosis.
Wiley Immunol Rev, 282 (2018), pp. 198-231
S.A. Legere, I.D. Haidl, J.-F. Légaré, et al.
Mast cells in cardiac fibrosis: new insights suggest opportunities for intervention.
Front Immunol, 10 (2019), pp. 580
S.P. Levick, J.L. Mclarty, D.B. Murray, et al.
Cardiac mast cells mediate left ventricular fibrosis in the hypertensive rat heart.
Hypertension, 53 (2009), pp. 1041-1074
G.R. Juliano, M.F. Skaf, L.S. Ramalho, et al.
Analysis of mast cells and myocardial fibrosis in autopsied patients with hypertensive heart disease.
G. Varricchi, A. de Paulis, G. Marone, et al.
Future needs in mast cell biology.
Int J Mol Sci, 20 (2019), pp. 4397
Copyright © 2020. Sociedade Portuguesa de Cardiologia
Revista Portuguesa de Cardiologia (English edition)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Article options
en pt

Are you a health professional able to prescribe or dispense drugs?

Você é um profissional de saúde habilitado a prescrever ou dispensar medicamentos

By checking that you are a health professional, you are stating that you are aware and accept that the Portuguese Journal of Cardiology (RPC) is the Data Controller that processes the personal information of users of its website, with its registered office at Campo Grande, n.º 28, 13.º, 1700-093 Lisbon, telephone 217 970 685 and 217 817 630, fax 217 931 095, and email I declare for all purposes that the information provided herein is accurate and correct.
en pt
Cookies policy Política de cookies
To improve our services and products, we use "cookies" (own or third parties authorized) to show advertising related to client preferences through the analyses of navigation customer behavior. Continuing navigation will be considered as acceptance of this use. You can change the settings or obtain more information by clicking here. Utilizamos cookies próprios e de terceiros para melhorar nossos serviços e mostrar publicidade relacionada às suas preferências, analisando seus hábitos de navegação. Se continuar a navegar, consideramos que aceita o seu uso. Você pode alterar a configuração ou obter mais informações aqui.