Tissue mast cells often localize in close proximity to the basement membrane of endothelial cells and increase at sites of inflammation. The reason for this unique tissue distribution is unknown. We report here that both the murine mast cell line PT18 and mouse bone marrow-derived mast cells possess functional receptors for laminin, and exhibit adhesion, spreading and redistribution of histamine-containing granules on a laminin substratum. This adherence is enhanced in the presence of purified IL-3 and can be inhibited by antibodies to laminin and by antibodies to laminin receptors. Northern analysis showed a high level of mRNA for a 32-kDa laminin receptor in PT18 mast cells. Mouse bone marrow-derived cultures initially exhibited a low level of the mRNA expression. However, the expression of the laminin receptor mRNA is induced rapidly within 1 wk of culture with IL-3. Thus, mast cells exhibit functional laminin receptors that may explain the tissue distribution of mast cells and their accumulation at sites of tissue injury.