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Anatomy Atlases: Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy: Section 1 - Cells Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy: Section 3 - Connective Tissue

Plate 3.28: Mast Cells

Ronald A. Bergman, Ph.D., Adel K. Afifi, M.D., Paul M. Heidger, Jr., Ph.D.
Peer Review Status: Externally Peer Reviewed


Plate 3.28: Mast Cells

A. Human, 10% formalin, H. & E., 162 x.
B. Rat, Helly's fluid, toluidine blue and erythrocin stains, 1416 x.
C. Rat, glutaraldehyde-osmium fixation, toluldine blue stain, 1416 x.

Mast cells are found in areolar connective tissue and along the course of small blood vessels. They have a spheroid nucleus and abundant cytoplasm. The cytoplasm is filled with coarse granules that stain red in H. & E. preparations (A), but stain metachromatically with toluidine blue and other basic aniline dyes (B and C). Granules may be so abundant as to obscure the nucleus.

In man, mast cells produce heparin, an anticoagulant substance that prevents blood clots. They also produce histamine, which increases the permeability of capillaries and influences the blood pressure.

In rats, mast cells also contain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), which causes vasoconstriction and elevation of blood pressure.

Collagen and elastic fibers are scattered in the interstices between mast cells. Two fat cells stained black by osmium tetroxide fixation are seen in C.

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