Two experimental systems were used to investigate the origin of precursor cells which differentiate into tissue mast cells in vivo. (a) Increase of mast cell number was examined in the skin, stomach, cecum, and mesentery of genetically mast cell-depleted WBB6F1 (WB X C57BL/6)-W/WV mice after the injection of various hematolymphoid cells of congenic +/+ mice. (b) Appearance of mast cells with giant granules was studied in irradiated C57BL/6-+/+ mice after the injection of lymphoid cells of C57BL/6-bgJ/bgJ (beige, Chediak-Higashi syndrome) mice. Concentrations of mast cell precursors in the thymus, lymph node and Peyer's patch were less than 0.1% of the concentration in the bone marrow. Neither treatment of donor bone marrow cells with anti-Thy-1.2 serum and complement nor thymectomy of the recipient mice affects the development of mast cells in the skin, stomach, cecum, and mesentery. Moreover, the number of mast cells increased to normal level when the skin of WBB6F1-W/WV mice was grafted on the back of nude athymic (BALB/c-nu/nu) mice. These results indicate that mast cell precursors are derived from hematopoietic tissues rather than lymphopoetic ones and that the differentiation of the precursor cells does not depend on T lymphocytes or the thymus.