Conjugated avidin identifies cutaneous rodent and human mast cells

P. R. Bergstresser, R. E. Tigelaar, M. D. Tharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Avidin conjugated to the fluorescent dyes rhodamine or fluorescein binds to mast cell granules in rodent and human skin. Sequential staining of tissue mast cells first with conjugated avidin, and then with a metachromatic stain demonstrated that both techniques identify the same mast cell granules. Specificity for mast cells was confirmed by the absence of avidin-positive cells in the skin of mast cell-deficient (W/W(v)) mice. Binding of conjugated avidin to mast cells was inhibited by pretreating tissue specimens with unconjugated avidin but not by pretreating conjugated avidin with biotin, indicating that avidin does not bind to biotin or a biotin-like molecule. Within murine dermis, unique patterns of mast cell distributions were observed, with a prominent perivascular localization in ear skin, and a complete absence of mast cells underlying the scales in tail skin. In tissue sections of guinea pig skin undergoing basophil hypersensitivity reactions and in murine and human skin specimens infiltrated with eosinophils, conjugated avidin selectively stained only dermal mast cells, demonstrating specificity for mast cells in sites of inflammation. Conjugated avidin also readily stained rat peritoneal mast cells, demonstrating its utility for identifying extracutaneous mast cells. Unlike the metachromatic stains, avidin binding to mast cells in tissues is not limited by methods of fixation or special embedding and cutting procedures. Thus, mast cell identification with conjugated avidin is a reliable, specific, and simple method with important clinical and investigative applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-218
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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