The ability of mouse IL-3-dependent, bone marrow culture-derived mast cells (BMMC) to generate serosal mast cells (SMC) in vivo after adoptive transfer to mast cell-deficient mice has been defined by chemical and immunochemical criteria. BMMC differentiated and grown from WBB6F1-+/+ mouse progenitor cells in medium containing PWM/splenocyte-conditioned medium synthesized a approximately 350,000 Mr protease-resistant proteoglycan bearing approximately 55,000 Mr glycosaminoglycans, as defined by gel filtration of each. Approximately 85% of the glycosaminoglycans bound to the cell-associated BMMC proteoglycans were chondroitin sulfates based upon their susceptibility to chondroitinase ABC digestion; HPLC of the chondroitinase ABC-generated unsaturated disaccharides revealed these glycosaminoglycans to be chondroitin sulfate E. As determined by heparinase and nitrous acid degradations, approximately 10% of the glycosaminoglycans bound to BMMC proteoglycans were heparin. In contrast, mast cells recovered from the peritoneal cavity of congenitally mast cell-deficient WBB6F1-W/Wv mice 15 wk after intraperitoneal injection of BMMC synthesized approximately 650,000 Mr protease-resistant proteoglycans that contained approximately 80% heparin glycosaminoglycans of approximately 105,000 Mr. Thus, after adoptive transfer, the SMC of the previously mast cell-deficient mice were like those recovered from the normal WBB6F1-+/+ mice that were shown to synthesize approximately 600,000 Mr proteoglycans that contained approximately 80% heparin glycosaminoglycans of approximately 115,000 Mr. As assessed by indirect immunofluorescence staining and flow cytometry using the B1.1 rat mAb (an antibody that recognizes an epitope located on the neutral glycosphingolipid globopentaosylceramide), approximately 5% of BMMC bound the antibody detectably, whereas approximately 72% of the SMC that were harvested from mast cell-deficient mice 15 wk after adoptive transfer of BMMC were B1.1-positive; approximately 82% of SMC from WBB6F1-+/+ mice bound the antibody. These biochemical and immunochemical data are consistent with the results of previous adoptive transfer studies that characterized mast cells primarily on the basis of morphologic and histochemical criteria. Thus, IL-3-dependent BMMC developed in vitro, cells that resemble mucosal mast cells, can give rise in vivo to SMC that express phenotypic characteristics of connective tissue mast cells.