The Wsh is a mutant allele at the W (c-kit) locus of mice. Mice of Wsh/Wsh genotype have white hairs and black eyes. Although adult C57BL/6-Wsh/Wsh mice were not anemic, they showed a remarkable depletion of mast cells. Most homozygous or double heterozygous mutant mice at the W (c-kit) locus, of which mast-cell depletion was comparable to that of Wsh/Wsh mice, are deficient in germ cells. However, male and female Wsh/Wsh mice have an appreciable number of germ cells in their gonads. We investigated the mechanism of specific depletion of mast cells in Wsh/Wsh mice. Cultured mast cells (CMC) derived from the spleen of Wsh/Wsh mice neither attached to normal (+/+) fibroblasts nor survived in the coculture with +/+ fibroblasts. The c-kit messenger RNA (mRNA) was strongly expressed in +/+ CMC, but not detectable in Wsh/Wsh CMC. Despite the lack of c-kit mRNA in Wsh/Wsh CMC, the c-kit mRNA was normally detectable in the cerebellum and weakly detectable in the testis and spleen of Wsh/Wsh mice. No significant changes were found in the nucleotide sequence of the c-kit transcripts obtained from the cerebellum of Wsh/Wsh mice. Development of mast cells, erythrocytes, and germ cells in Wsh/Wsh mice appeared to be parallel with the magnitude of the c-kit gene expression in each cell type.

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