Presence of mast cell precursors in the mouse peritoneal cavity was demonstrated, and the precursors were characterized. When a cell suspension, containing mast cell precursor(s), was directly injected into the skin of genetically mast cell-deficient WBB6F1 (WB X C57BL/6)-W/Wv mice, a cluster composed of approximately 2,000 mast cells appeared at the injection site. By determining the proportion of injection sites at which the mast cell cluster appeared, the concentration of mast cell precursors can be calculated by limiting dilution analysis. The concentration in the peritoneal cavity was about five times as great as the concentration in the bone marrow. Although peritoneal mast cell precursors were shown to originate from the bone marrow, physical characterization revealed that the peritoneal precursors differed from the marrow precursors. The peritoneal precursors were less susceptible to irradiation than the marrow precursors; the former were heavier than the latter. When a 95% pure mast cell suspension was prepared from the peritoneal cells by the removal of phagocytes and the density gradient centrifugation, 1 out of 16 cells had the potentiality to make a mast cell cluster in the skin of the W/Wv mice. Moreover, when a single mast cell was identified under the phase contrast microscope and picked up with the micromanipulator, 1 out of 17 mast cells made the cluster. This indicated that some peritoneal mast cells kept extensive proliferative potentiality even after morphological differentiation. In other words, some peritoneal mast cells themselves may function as the committed precursors.

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