We have characterized the mast cell stimulating activity of murine cytokine synthesis inhibitory factor, referred to as interleukin 10 (IL-10). It was found that IL-10 alone failed to support the growth of mast cell lines and mast cell progenitors. Nevertheless, it dramatically enhanced their growth when combined with IL-3 or IL-4. Moreover, IL-4 plus IL-10 supported the proliferation of mast cells as well as IL-3, suggesting that these two factors may provide a pathway for their development independent of IL-3. However, optimal mast cell growth was stimulated by the combination of IL-10, IL-4, and IL-3. This particular set of cytokines are coordinately produced by activated T cells and may constitute an effective network regulating early and late stages of mast cell development during certain immune responses.