Inflammatory kidney disease involves a complex network of interactions between resident kidney and infiltrating hematopoietic cells. Mast cells (MCs) are constitutively found in kidneys in small numbers but increase considerably in various renal diseases. While this increase is usually interpreted as a sign of pathological involvement, recent data using MC-deficient animals show their ability to restore kidney homeostasis. In anti-glomerular basement membrane antibody-induced glomerulonephritis, MCs are protective by initiating repair and remodeling functions counteracting the devastating effects of glomerular injury. Protection may also include immunoregulatory capacities to limit autoreactive T-cell responses. MCs also control tubulointerstitial fibrosis by activating tissue remodeling and neutralizing fibrotic factors. Release of mediators by MCs during inflammation, however, could also promote unwanted responses that ultimately lead to destruction of kidney structure, as exemplified by data showing either protection or aggravation in related renal disease models. Similarly, while the action of proteases may initially be beneficial, the generation of fibrosis-promoting angiotensin II by chymase also shows the limits of adaptive responses to achieve homeostasis. Thus, it is likely the physiological context involving the interaction with other cells and inflammatory mediators that determines the final action of MCs in the development of kidney disease.