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Mast cells and basophils are effector cells in IgE-associated immune responses, such as those that contribute to asthma and other allergic diseases and to host resistance to parasites. Recent work shows that mast cells can also participate in innate immunity to bacterial infection and that the expression of such mast cell—dependent natural immunity can be significantly enhanced by long-term treatment of mice with the kit ligand, stem cell factor. However, mast cells may also influence many other biologic responses, including tissue remodeling and angiogenesis. This review discusses certain recent findings about the differentiation, phenotype, and function of basophils and mast cells, as well as briefly considering evolving concepts about the roles of these cells in health and disease.