A quantitative and morphometric study of tryptase-positive mast cells in cutaneous leprosy lesions.
While mast cells are known to induce differences in the matrix structures, microvascular patterns, and immune responses in a number of diseases, the possible role of mast cells in these same processes over the spectrum of leprosy has not yet been investigated. Thus, ascertaining the possible influence of mast cells in the outcome of the anti-leprosy response to Mycobacterium leprae is of major importance. In this study, 51 cutaneous biopsies of leprosy patients were stained with anti-tryptase antibody in order to quantify mast cells in leprosy lesions and compare the number and size of these cells in all the forms of leprosy. Biopsies were grouped according to an adapted Ridley-Jopling clinical-immunological classification (17 T, 17 B and 17 L). It was found that the L (lepromatous leprosy) group had the lowest dermal mast cell density values among the three groups studied. Furthermore, the average mast cell cross-sectional area was significantly higher in the L in comparison to the B (borderline-borderline) and T (tuberculoid) biopsies, suggesting mast cell functional differences within the groups. The higher mast cell density in the T and B groups was considered indirect evidence of the role of mast cells in the activated immune response to M. leprae infection.