Mast cells are effectors of inflammatory responses. When triggered by immunological or nonimmunological mechanisms, mast cells release potent biological mediators from preformed stores and synthesize others de novo. In previous investigations from this laboratory, the signal transduction pathways of cloned 10P2 cytokine-independent mast cells were explored. Results suggested that 10P2 cells undergo activation-secretion coupling assessed as release of stored [14C]serotonin (5-HT) when challenged with IgE-specific antigen, influx of extracellular calcium, release of intracellular calcium stores, or by direct activation of protein kinase C isozymes. In the present investigations, cytokine proliferative effects and modulatory roles on release of stored [14C]5-HT have been explored. Following passive sensitization with anti-dinitrophenol (anti-DNP) IgE and challenge with DNP, mast cells released up to 32% of the stored [14C]5-HT. Pretreatment of cells with 10, 30, or 50 ng/ml stem cell factor (SCF) did not alter the response. SCF did not directly induce [14C]5-HT release. Pretreatment with 25 ng/ml interleukin-9 (IL-9) significantly potentiated the IgE-antigen release by 51.1%, 35.7%, or 31.6% when challenged with 3, 10 or 30 ng/ml DNP-HSA. Treatment of cells with 1-100 ng/ml SCF for 72 hr resulted in significantly enhanced proliferation whereas this did not occur when cells were treated with 1-100 ng/ml IL-9. Collectively, these results suggest that SCF alone has a proliferative effect, does not alter the IgE-specific antigen signal transduction pathway, and does not directly stimulate mast cell degranulation. In contrast, IL-9 potentiates the IgE-antigen signal transduction response but exerts no proliferative response. Reports of effects of orally administered cytokines are now beginning to emerge. This raises the possibility that cytokines may be a future therapeutic approach to treatment of allergic and nonallergic inflammatory diseases. The 10P2 cytokine-independent mast cell line may be a valuable adjunct to existing mast cell models as this avenue of drug discovery is explored.