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Gastroenterology Research and Practice
Volume 2016, Article ID 2031480, 11 pages
Review Article

The Role of Mast Cells in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Department of Internal Medicine, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Received 8 September 2016; Revised 18 November 2016; Accepted 5 December 2016

Academic Editor: Magdy El-Salhy

Copyright © 2016 Kang Nyeong Lee and Oh Young Lee. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders, but its treatment is unsatisfactory as its pathophysiology is multifactorial. The putative factors of IBS pathophysiology are visceral hypersensitivity and intestinal dysmotility, also including psychological factors, dysregulated gut-brain axis, intestinal microbiota alterations, impaired intestinal permeability, and mucosal immune alterations. Recently, mucosal immune alterations have received much attention with the role of mast cells in IBS. Mast cells are abundant in the intestines and function as intestinal gatekeepers at the interface between the luminal environment in the intestine and the internal milieu under the intestinal epithelium. As a gatekeeper at the interface, mast cells communicate with the adjacent cells such as epithelial, neuronal, and other immune cells throughout the mediators released when they themselves are activated. Many studies have suggested that mast cells play a role in the pathophysiology of IBS. This review will focus on studies of the role of mast cell in IBS and the limitations of studies and will also consider future directions.