In patients with allergic asthma, T-cell cytokines are implicated in the regulation of the local inflammation in the airways. The ability of sensitized mast cells to release mediators and cytokines early upon allergen stimulation makes them important candidates for local immunoregulation. We have studied the effects of human mast cells on T cells with the use of the human mast cell line HMC-1. We showed that activated human mast cells or their soluble products induced and enhanced the interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production by T cells up to about 60-fold. The production of interleukin (IL)-4 was hardly affected and that of IL-5 was slightly enhanced. The enhancement of IFN-gamma production was induced both in polyclonal CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and in CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell clones. Further characterization of the factors involved demonstrated a molecular mass above 30 000. Our results implicate that by this mechanism mast cells may account for a negative feedback system locally down-regulating allergen-induced T helper 2 responses via IFN-gamma production by the T cells.