Mutant mice of mi/mi genotype are osteopetrotic and are deficient in mast cells. The osteopetrosis of mi/mi mice can be cured by bone marrow transplantation from congenic normal (+/+) mice, and therefore, the cause of the osteopetrosis is attributed to a defect of osteoclasts. Since both osteoclasts and mast cells are the progeny of multipotential hematopoietic stem cells, we examined whether mast cells were defective in mi/mi mice. In spite of the deficiency of mast cells in tissues of mi/mi mice, mast cells did develop when spleen cells of mi/mi mice were cultured with pokeweed mitogen-stimulated spleen cell conditioned medium (PWM-SCM). The proliferative response of cultured mast cells (CMC) derived from mi/mi mice to PWM-SCM was comparable with that of CMC from +/+ mice. In contrast, when CMC were co-cultured with the NIH/3T3 fibroblast cell line in culture medium lacking PWM-SCM, only +/+ CMC entered into the S phase of the cell cycle and were maintained; mi/mi CMC gradually disappeared. Moreover, fibroblasts derived from the skin of mi/mi mice normally supported the proliferation of +/+ CMC. Thus, the mast cell deficiency of mi/mi mice appears to be due to the inability of mi/mi mast cells to respond to the proliferative stimulus presented by fibroblasts.