The neuropeptide substance P (SP) is a mediator of neuro-inflammation and can play a role by induction of histamine release (HR) and TNF-alpha. However, its effect on the heterogeneous response of mast cells (MC) has not been completely studied. We have established that the SR can induce 25% of HR in highly purified rat uterine MC at diestrous but not at proestrous phases of the reproductive cycle and 88% of HR in peritoneal mast cells (PMC). We also found 2.2 fold increase in TNF-alpha mRNA at diestrous, in SP stimulated uterine MC versus control and 2.7 fold increase in PMC; RT and competitive PCR were used to amplify the TNF-alpha mRNA. We have thereafter investigated the mechanism whereby the binding of SP to sialic acid on the MC membrane, could trigger secretion of histamine and induction of TNF-alpha mRNA. The neuraminidase pretreatment (0.1 U/ml) inhibited SP-stimulated HR from either uterine MC and PMC (98% and 50%, respectively) and totally inhibited SP-stimulated TNF-alpha mRNA levels. The neuraminidase effect was not toxic, since it was not observed in IgE mediated HR and TNF-alpha mRNA levels. In conclusion, the inhibitory effect of the neuraminidase on the SP-mediated increase of histamine and TNF-alpha mRNA, suggests that the SP-sialic acid interaction could have a role in the MC heterogeneous response.