Ws/Ws rats have a small deletion at the tyrosine kinase domain of the c- kit gene and are deficient in both mucosal mast cells (MMC) and connective tissue-type mast cells (CTMC). The role of the c-kit receptor in the development of MMC and CTMC was investigated by infecting Ws/Ws and control +/+ rats with Nippostrongylus brasiliensis (NB), which induces T-cell-dependent mast cell proliferation. Although mast cells did not develop in the skin of Ws/Ws rats, a significant number of mast cells developed in the jejunum after NB infection. These mast cells had the MMC protease phenotype (rat mast cell protease [RMCP] I-/II+) and lacked heparin because they were not stained with berberine sulfate. Globule leukocytes were also detected in the mucosal epithelium of these rats. However, the number of MMC and the serum concentration of RMCP II in NB-infected Ws/Ws rats were only 13% and 7% of those of NB-infected +/+ rats, respectively. A small number of mast cells also developed in the lung, liver, and mesenteric lymph nodes of Ws/Ws rats after NB infection. Although mast cells in these tissues had the MMC phenotype throughout the observation period, the increased mast cells in the lung and liver of +/+ rats acquired a CTMC-like phenotype and were RMCP I+/II+, berberine sulfate+, and formalin resistant. These results indicate that the need for the stimulus through the c-kit receptor appears to be greater in the development of CTMC in the skin as well as for CTMC-like mast cells in the lung and liver than for the development of MMC.

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