Asthmatic patients have higher numbers of mast cells in the smooth muscle layer of airways than normal subjects. Human airway smooth muscle cells (HASMCs) are a source of various cytokines including transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1), which is chemotactic for mast cells. We have thus examined the potential for interaction between HASMCs and mast cells and have investigated, in particular, the hypothesis that after stimulation, HASMCs can induce mast cell chemotaxis through the production of cytokines. Supernatants of HASMCs treated with the major mast cell product tryptase had increased chemotactic activity for the HMC-1 mast cell line. The effect depended on an intact catalytic site for tryptase and could be induced by a peptide agonist for protease activated receptor 2. Chemotactic activity was related to the synthesis of TGF-beta1 by HASMCs and, to a lesser extent, to stem cell factor. The number of mast cells within the smooth muscle layer of asthmatic patients was closely related to TGF-beta1 expression by smooth muscle. HASMCs may thus be able to stimulate the accumulation of mast cells, and these cells may, in turn, stimulate the secretion of chemotactic factors by HASMCs.