Infection of a susceptible host with Leishmania, a protozoan parasite, causes the disease leishmaniasis, which is characterized by neutrophil, eosinophil, macrophage, lymphocyte and mast cell infiltration into the infected tissue followed by parasite growth. Although the roles played by other cells in leishmaniasis are known, the role of mast cells remains to be ascertained. Here, we demonstrate that Leishmania regulates mast cell infiltration to the site of infection, mast cell production and mast cell function resulting in differential growth of the parasite in resistant (C57BL/6 or CBA/T6T6) and susceptible (BALB/c) macrophages. An interleukin-3-dependent augmentation in mast cell committed progenitors is observed in BALB/c but not in C57BL/6 mice during Leishmania infection. The mast cell supernatants inhibit IFN-γ-dependent restriction of Leishmania growth in macrophages in BALB/c mice whereas the reverse phenomenon occurs in C57BL/6 mice. Our data reveals a different facet of host–pathogen interaction.