A simple immunofluorescence technique for simultaneous visualization of mast cells and nerve fibers reveals selectivity and hair cycle-dependent changes in mast cell-nerve fiber contacts in murine skin

Vladimir A. Botchkarev, Stefan Eichmüller, Eva M.J. Peters, Peter Pietsch, Olle Johansson, Marcus Maurer, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

96 Scopus citations


Close contacts between mast cells (MC) and nerve fibers have previously been demonstrated in normal and inflamed skin by light and electron microscopy. A key step for any study in MC-nerve interactions in situ is to simultaneously visualize both communication partners, preferably with the option of double labelling the nerve fibers. For this purpose, we developed the following triple-staining technique. After paraformaldehyde-picric acid perfusion fixation, cryostat sections of back skin from C57BL/6 mice were incubated with a primary rat monoclonal antibody to substance P (SP), followed by incubation with a secondary goat-anti-rat TRITC-conjugated IgG. A rabbit antiserum to CGRP was then applied, followed by a secondary goat-anti-rabbit FITC-conjugated IgG, MCs were visualized by incubation with AMCA-labelled avidin, or (for a more convenient quantification of close MC-nerve fiber contacts) with a mixture of TRITC-and FITC-labelled avidins. Using this simple, novel covisualization method, we were able to show that MC-nerve associations in mouse skin are, contrary to previous suggestions, highly selective for nerve fiber types, and that these interactions are regulated in a hair cycle-dependent manner: in telogen and early anagen skin, MCs preferentially contacted CGRP-immunoreactive (IR) or SP/CGRP-IR double-labelled nerve fibers. Compared with telogen values, there was a significant increase in the number of close contacts between MCs and tyrosine hydroxylase-IR fibers during late anagen, and between MCs and peptide histidine-methionine-IR and choline acetyl transferase-IR fibers during catagen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-302
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Dermatological Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 10 1997
Externally publishedYes



  • Avidin
  • Hair cycle
  • Mast cell
  • Nerve fibers
  • Neuropeptides
  • Skin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

Cite this