Mast cell research has largely focused on the role of these cells in the early phase of allergic reactions. However, their involvement may well extend beyond this stage, and even reach across nonallergic conditions. Mast cells from different sources have helped advance our knowledge of their biology. Although in vitro and in vivo research in this area has mainly focused on humans, such studies are limited by the extent to which cells from certain human tissues and/or human patients can be collected or studied. While rodents also provide valuable models with which to further our understanding of the behaviour of mast cells and their contribution to allergy, reported differences between human and murine mast cells, and, in some instances, the limitations of in vivo rodent models of mast cell-mediated allergic conditions, preclude their use. In this review, we introduce a relatively unknown mast cell population, that of the dog. Canine mast cells display many phenotypic and functional similarities with their human counterparts, and dogs develop spontaneous and induced allergic diseases that share clinical and pathophysiological features with the human condition. Therefore, the use of canine cells can shed light on the general role of mast cells, particularly in relation to allergic diseases given the potential of in vivo dog models within this field. Here we provide a detailed review of the data reported from in vitro and in vivo studies of canine mast cells, and compare them with results obtained in human systems. We also highlight direct evidence of the mast cell contribution to canine atopy. We conclude that the dog offers useful in vitro and in vivo models in which to investigate mast cell behaviour, and that its use should be considered when undertaking studies aimed either at elucidating the role of mast cells in health and disease, or at prescreening novel therapies prior to entry into man. © 2006 The Authors.
- Mast cells