, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 485-503

Linear arrays of homogenous mast cells in the dura mater of the rat

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Using fluorescence histochemistry, 5-HT, histamine and heparin were colocalized in a large population of cells in the dura mater thereby identifying them as mast cells. In addition, because these cells were highly sensitive to compound 48/80 and were densely packed with granules of a consistent density, they were identified specifically as ‘connective tissue’ mast cells. Other types of mast cells, i.e. ‘mucosal’ or ‘neurolipomastocytes’, were not present in the rat dura mater. 5-HT immunohistochemistry was the best technique for demonstrating that there were two populations of mast cells, one associated with each of the two layers of dura. Although shaped differently the type of mast cell in each layer was the same. It was observed that mast cell shape is dependent on the contiguity, density and orientation of its surrounding elements, not its type. In general, mast cells in the outer layer were aligned parallel to the middle meningeal artery and those in the inner layer were parallel to trigeminal nerve branches that coursed obliquely across the middle meningeal artery. Examination of cross-sections of dura revealed that most mast cells also were aligned at the interface between the two dural layers. The linear orientation of mast cells in two planes of each layer suggests a programmed lamellar seeding of these cells during development of the dura. This study also demonstrated that the majority of dural mast cells were more closely related to other connective tissue elements than to blood vessels and nerves. These results (1) are compatible with the suggestion that dural mast cells play a non-obligatory role in the neuroinflammatory response, (2) leave open to question the role of the dural mast cell in headache or the regulation of blood flow, and (3) support evidence that dural mast cells play an important role in connective tissue related functions, e.g. development, inflammatory response to injury and wound repair.