The role of mast cells in polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) influx in Ag-antibody complex-induced peritonitis was evaluated in mast cell-deficient WBB6F1-W/Wv (W/Wv) mice and their normal littermates, WBB6F1-+/+ (+/+). Peritoneal cell influx was evaluated after i.p. injection of preformed immune complexes. The first significant elevation in the PMN count over PBS-treated controls in +/+ mice was observed 2 h after stimulation. During the period of maximum leukocyte concentrations (6 to 10 h), the increase in total cell count was 5-fold and in PMN 25-fold. In W/Wv mice the PMN influx started 2 h later than in the +/+ mice, and the maximum response (8 to 10 h) was only 50% of that in controls. Reconstitution of mast cells in W/Wv mice for 2 wk or more restored the PMN response to immune complexes. Mast cell release due to AG-antibody complexes was evaluated by measuring fluorescence intensity after berberine sulfate staining for heparin in mast cells from unstimulated as well as stimulated +/+ mice. There was a significant decrease in fluorescence intensity as early as 15 min after stimulation. By 30 min the fluorescence intensity had declined by 65%. This indicates extensive mast cell release that started before PMN mobilization. These experiments demonstrate that mast cells make a significant contribution to immune complex-induced inflammation.