1. Lung transplantation causes a total interruption of the innervation and vascularization within the transplanted organ, followed by repair processes. This is frequently associated with bronchial hyper-responsiveness. A common feature of tissue repair is an increase in the number of mast cells. Three phenotypically distinct mast cell subsets, with respect to their protease content, have been identified in rat lung, and it is probable that mast cells of differing protease phenotype fulfil different functions.

2. We have compared the number, protease phenotype and distribution of mast cells in left lung from transplanted and control Lewis rats 1 month after syngeneic unilateral left lung transplantation, without interference of inflammation, graft rejection or of any treatment. Connective and mucosal-type mast cell phenotypes were characterized using antibodies directed against their specific rat mast cell proteases, RMCPI and RMCPII, respectively.

3. After transplantation, RMCPI and RMCPII tissue concentrations increased by 172% and 239%, respectively, compared with controls (13.1 ± 1.2 and 5.6±1.0 μg/g).

4. Localization of mast cell phenotypes was studied by immunohistochemistry after double immunostaining. The number of mast cells increased after transplantation: the increase in the number of RMCPI-immunoreactive mast cells (RMCPI+) was significant around bronchioles and arterioles, around large vessels and in the pleura. The number of RMCPII+ mast cells also significantly increased around bronchioles and arterioles, as well as in the smooth muscle layer of large airways. Some mast cells stained for the presence of both RMCPI and RMCPII, supporting the existence of co-expressing phenotype in rat lung. The number of mast cells of the RMCPI+ /H+ phenotype significantly increased around bronchioles and arterioles and in the pleura. Moreover, the distribution of the mast cell phenotypes was modified in the different areas after transplantation.

5. This indicates a local differentiation/maturation of mast cells after transplantation.

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