Group II phospholipase A2 was detected in appreciable amounts in rat peritoneal mast cells. The effect of several inhibitors specific to 14-kDa group-II phospholipase A2, including two proteinaceous inhibitors and a product of microorganisms with a low molecular mass, on mast-cell activation was examined. When rat peritoneal mast cells were sensitized with IgE and then challenged with antigen, the specific phospholipase-A2 inhibitors suppressed histamine release in a concentration-dependent manner. By contrast, these inhibitors showed no effect on prostaglandin generation under the same conditions. Histamine release from rat peritoneal mast cells subjected to non-immunochemical stimuli, such as concanavalin A, the Ca2+ ionophore A23187, compound 48/80 and substance P was also suppressed. When rat peritoneal mast cells were treated with 14-kDa-group-II-phospholipase-A2-specific inhibitors, washed and stimulated, histamine release was not affected appreciably. Similar suppressive effects of the inhibitors on histamine release were observed with mouse cultured bone-marrow-derived mast cells. When bone-marrow-derived mast cells were activated, they secreted both a soluble and an ecto-enzyme form of 14-kDa group-II phospholipase A2, although appearance of the enzyme associated with the external surface of cells was observed transiently. An appreciable amount of membrane phospholipids was degraded during activation of mast cells, which was decreased by treatment with 14-kDa-group-II-phospholipase-A2 inhibitor. These observations suggest that degranulation and eicosanoid generation in mast cells are regulated independently by discrete phospholipases A2 and that the 14-kDa group-II phospholipase A2 released from mast cells during activation may play an essential role in the progression of the degranulation process.