We have previously suggested that the release of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) (5-HT) by local tissue mast cells is required for the elicitation of delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) in mice. In the current study, light microscopic radioautographs from animals treated with [3H]5-HT indicated that local mast cells released 5-HT between 6 and 18 h during the evolution of DTH. Ultrastructural examination of mast cells revealed surface activation, indicated by extension of surface filopodia, and degranulation by fusion and exocytosis. Light and electron microscopic studies of the endothelium of postcapillary venules at sites of DTH revealed the development of gaps between adjacent cells. The development of gaps permitted extravasation of tracers that was abolished by depletion or antagonism of 5-HT. Thus mast cells degranulated and released 5-HT in DTH, and this 5-HT acted on local vessels. Recipients of nonadherent, non-immunoglobulin-bearing sensitized lymphocytes also demonstrated similar mast cell degranulation and the formation of endothelial gaps. This indicated that mast cell degranulation and 5-HT release in murine DTH were probably T cell dependent.

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