Palpable swelling of regional lymph nodes is a common sequela of microbial infections but the mechanism responsible for the sequestration and subsequent coordination of lymphocyte responses within these dynamic structures remains poorly understood. Here we show that draining lymph nodes of mast cell-deficient mice did not demonstrate swelling after intradermal bacterial challenge. Testing of individual mast cell-derived products in this model indicated that tumor necrosis factor was the main mediator of nodal hypertrophy, whereas tryptase and histamine had no effect. After peripheral mast cell activation, both tumor necrosis factor concentrations and the recruitment of circulating T cells were increased within draining nodes. These results show a critical function for peripheral mast cell-derived tumor necrosis factor in regulating the hypertrophy of draining lymph nodes during infection.