To perform a retrospective pilot study of the potential role of mast cells in acute and chronic rejection of the lung allograft, transbronchial biopsies of 29 patients with acute rejection and six patients with bronchiolitis obliterans were stained with antibodies to mast cell tryptase. The number of mast cells per unit area were counted, and compared with a control group of normal lung biopsies stained in a similar fashion. Increasing grades of acute rejection were associated with progressively more mast cells per high-power microscopic field. The presence of bronchiolitis obliterans was accompanied by the greatest numbers of mast cells. Mast cells may play a role in the acute rejection response to the lung allograft and in the development of bronchiolitis obliterans.