Inflammation Research

, Volume 58, Issue 11, pp 737-745

First online:

The RBL-2H3 cell line: its provenance and suitability as a model for the mast cell

  • Egle PassanteAffiliated withSchool of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trinity College Dublin
  • , Neil FrankishAffiliated withSchool of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trinity College Dublin Email author 

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The RBL-2H3 cell line is a commonly used histamine-releasing cell line used in inflammation, allergy and immunological research. Quite commonly, it is referred to in research papers as a mast cell line, despite the fact that it is derived from basophils. There is also a lack of consistency, both between different research groups using the same cell line and with both mast cell and basophil physiology. The review follows the development of the RBL-2H3 cell line from its inception and then goes on to assess the nature of the cell line in terms of its characteristics and its response to various stimuli. The relationship of this cell line to the various mast cell subtypes and basophils is discussed and it is concluded that while the RBL-2H3 cell line shares some characteristics with both mast cells and basophils, it is not fully representative of either.