GATA-3 is essential for T cell development from the earliest stages. However, abundant GATA-3 can drive T lineage precursors to a non-T cell fate, depending on Notch signaling and developmental stage. Here, overexpression of GATA-3 blocked the survival of pro-T cells when Notch-Delta signals were present but enhanced viability in their absence. In fetal thymocytes at the double-negative 1 (DN1) stage and DN2 stage but not those at the DN3 stage, overexpression of GATA-3 rapidly induced respecification to the mast cell lineage with high frequency by direct transcriptional 'reprogramming'. Normal DN2 thymocytes also showed mast cell potential when interleukin 3 and stem cell factor were added in the absence of Notch signaling. Our results suggest a close relationship between the pro-T cell and mast cell programs and a previously unknown function for Notch in T lineage fidelity.