Do mast cells affect villous architecture? Facts and conjectures

Enrico Crivellato, N. Finato, D. Ribatti, C. A. Beltrami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In adult life, the architecture of the intestinal villus is maintained by a complex series of epithelial-stromal interactions that involve different types of fixed and mobile cells located in the intestinal mucosa. Mast cells (MC) are normal constituents of the small bowel mucosa where they reside in the villous and pericryptal lamina propria as well as within the columnar epithelial cell layer. Besides being involved in numerous immune and inflammatory reactions in the context of both innate and acquired host defence, MC are known to exert important non-immunological functions like wound repair, extracellular matrix remodelling, angiogenesis and neurotrophism as well as modulation of fibroblast, epithelial cell and smooth muscle cell activity. These pleiotropic functions put MC in a central, strategic position to organize tissue defence, restore tissue damage and maintain tissue homeostasis. This review summarizes the most recent advances concerning the functional anatomy of the crypt-villus unit and discusses the way intestinal MC might become part of the instructive circuits that ultimately lead to the maintenance of a proper villous shape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1293
Number of pages9
JournalHistology and Histopathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • Crypt-villus epithelial cell
  • Growth factors
  • Intestinal subepithelial myofibroblast
  • Mast cell
  • Microvasculature
  • Nerve fibres
  • Regulatory cytokines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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