The knowledge about mast cell biology and function was drifting in the doldrums for several decades but the last few years have witnessed an impressive progress in mast cell research. It is now commonly accepted that mast cells participate in a variety of inflammatory responses of diverse origin, such as innate immunity against infection, immune complex-mediated reactions, allergic inflammation and delayed hypersensitivity. Collectively, this is mainly based on the ability of mast cells to produce a broad panel of cytokines in response to IgE-dependent and IgE-independent stimulation. In this context, our group is interested in molecular mechanisms of cytokine production (proinflammatory cytokines, Th2 cytokines), especially with respect to mast cell-specific signaling pathways responsible for the activation of cytokine genes. Furthermore, we investigate IgE-independent mast cell triggering by microbial constituents and the role of mast cells in skin immunity and in infections with cytomegalovirus using mast cell-deficient mice as in vivo models.
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Michael Stassen