Mast cells are known to adhere to laminin, although there is limited information on the characteristics of this event. To further examine this adhesive interaction, we thus determined the adherence of murine mast cell lines and primary bone marrow cultured mast cells (BMCMC) to murine laminin (mLN), human placental laminin-1 (hLN), merosin (laminin-2) and various laminin fragments, concentrating on activating stimuli, the involvement of integrins, and the effect on mast cell activation. Murine mast cells were found to adhere to both mLN and hLN and to merosin, not only following exposure to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), but also after Fc epsilon RI aggregation or addition of stem cell factor (SCF). Adhesion to laminin was partially inhibited by soluble E8 and PA22-2, both fragments of laminin that promote mast-cell adhesion when bound on surfaces. Mast-cell lines and BMCMC consistently expressed high levels of alpha 6 integrin. Antibody to alpha 6 blocked spontaneous and inhibited activated mast-cell adhesion to hLN, and inhibited mast-cell adhesion to mLN and its fragment E8. Mast-cell adhesion to both laminin isoforms increased Fc epsilon RI-mediated mast-cell secretion. These observations demonstrate that mast-cell attachment to laminin is promoted by physiological stimuli, is mediated principally by alpha 6 integrin, and results in enhanced cell activation.