Mast cells release potent mediators that alter enteric nerve and smooth muscle functions and may contribute to the pathogenesis of functional gastrointestinal disorders. The goal of this study was to determine if mucosal mast cell infiltration was associated with smooth muscle segmental changes in esophageal contraction. All patients with noncardiac chest pain (NCCP) were divided into two groups consisting of patients with non-erosive reflux disease or functional chest pain (FCP) according to the results of ambulatory 24 hours esophageal pH monitoring and high-resolution manometry. Pressure-volume (PV) was calculated by multiplying the length of the esophageal segment, duration of the contraction, and mean pressure over the entire space-time box (P mean). Quantification of mast cells was performed in five consecutive nonoverlapping immunostained sections. Spearman correlation analysis showed that the distal segment PV correlated with the mast cell count in all of the patients combined and in patients with FCP with correlation coefficients of 0.509 and 0.436, respectively (P = 0.004 and P = 0.042). Similar findings were observed for the segmental ratio of distal to proximal smooth muscle PV in all patients and in patients with FCP (correlation coefficients 0.566; P = 0.001 and correlation coefficients 0.525; P = 0.012, respectively). Mucosal mast cell infiltration was associated with distal esophageal contraction as a key pathophysiologic factor of NCCP.
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