Mast cells, when supplemented with H2O2 and iodide, are cytotoxic to mammalian tumor cells as determined by 51Cr release, and transmission and scanning electron microscopy. H2O2 at the concentration employed (10(-4) M) initiates mast cell degranulation, and mast cell granules (MCG), which contain a small amount of endogenous peroxidase activity, are toxic to tumor cells when combined with H2O2 and iodide. This toxicity is greatly increased by binding eosinophil peroxidase (EPO) to the MCG surface. Each component of the mast cell, MCG, or MCG-EPO system was required and toxicity was inhibited by the addition of the hemeprotein inhibitors azide or aminotriazole, which is compatible with a requirement for peroxidase in the cytotoxic reaction. A sequence of reactions is proposed in which mast cells, stimulated to release their granules by H2O2 generated by adjacent phagocytes, react with H2O2 and a halide to damage tumor cells. EPO release from eosinophils may contribute to this sequence of reactions, both by stimulation of H2O2-induced mast cell secretion and by combination with MCG to form a complex with augmented tumoricidal activity. These rections may play a role in the host defense against neoplasms.