The effects of temperature on granular secretion were studied in individual bovine adrenal chromaffin and rat peritoneal mast cells. It was found that more molecules are released from individual granules at physiological temperature than at room temperature, where such experiments are normally performed. In mast cells, there is also a dramatic decrease in the time required for exocytosis to be complete at 37 degrees C compared to room temperature. In the presence of some cations, the amount released from individual granules at room temperature from both types of cells could be altered. The amount of secretion decreased with the divalent cation zinc but increased with the monovalent cation cesium. These experiments used two electrochemical techniques: cyclic voltammetry and amperometry. With amperometry, the concentration gradient created by the electrode near the cell further increased the amount of release. Similar responses to changes in the extracellular environment in chromaffin and mast cells suggest that the mechanism of extrusion of the granule contents is similar in both cell types.