In this study, we demonstrate that Dermatophagoides farinae (Der f), a major source of airborne allergens, but not OVA, could rapidly activate mast cells in mice. This was indicated by an elevation of serum mouse mast cell protease 1, a mast cell-specific proteinase, as early as 30 min after intratracheal challenge. Administration of sodium cromoglycate (40 mg/kg, i.p., 1 h before Der f instillation), a mast cell stabilizer, not only suppressed acute mouse mast cell protease 1 production but also attenuated the allergic airway inflammation provoked by repetitive Der f challenge in mice (five times at 1-wk interval). Der f induced the expression of mRNA for TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-9, and IL-13 in mastocytoma P815 cells and stimulated both P815 cells and bone marrow-derived mast cells to produce IL-4, IL-6, and TNF-α in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Cycloheximide as well as sodium cromoglycate blocked the Der f-induced IL-4 production, indicating a de novo protein synthesis process. Supernatants of Der f-stimulated mast cells chemoattracted monocytes and T lymphocytes; they up-regulated the expression of costimulatory B7 molecules, eotaxin, RANTES, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, and IFN-inducible protein 10 mRNA of alveolar macrophages; they supported PHA-induced T cell proliferation; and they promoted Th2 cell development. Our data indicate that mast cells may be an important cell type during the initiation of Der f sensitization in the airway by modulating the function of alveolar macrophages and T cells.
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