Mast cells accumulate at sites of neovascularization, solid tumors, and many immune reactions. Such accumulation requires directed migration of mature mast cells or their precursors. The nature of the chemoattractants that regulate mast cell motility and the identity of the receptors that mediate the chemotactic response are poorly understood. We have tested the ability of stem cell factor (SCF), a mast cell growth factor, to stimulate mast cell migration. Our results show that SCF is a potent mast cell attractant that stimulates directional motility of both mucosal and connective tissue-type mast cells. The activity is potentiated by costimulation with interleukin-3 (IL-3), another mast cell chemoattractant. SCF, a known ligand for the c-kit tyrosine kinase receptor, was unable to stimulate motility in W42 mutant mast cells, which have a defective c-kit tyrosine kinase. However, W42 mast cells were still able to migrate in response to IL-3. These results show that SCF is a chemotactic factor as well as a growth factor and that the c-kit receptor can transduce signals leading to both cell proliferation and increased directional cell motility.

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