Ws/Ws rats have a small deletion at the tyrosine kinase domain of the c-kit gene, and practically no mast cells were detectable when the tissues were stained with alcian blue. Because alcian blue stains proteoglycans, there is a possibility that immature mast cells that do not contain a sufficient amount of proteoglycans are not detectable by this method. We examined this possibility by using other markers of mast cells. The histamine content in the skin of Ws/Ws rats was 0.3% that of control normal (+/+) rats. Because the number of alcian blue-positive mast cells in the skin of Ws/Ws rats was also 0.3% that of +/+ rats, histamine in the skin seemed to be concentrated to alcian blue-positive mast cells. Mast cells in the skin of +/+ rats express messenger RNA of Fc epsilon RI beta-subunit and c-kit protein. Because c-kit messenger RNA was normally expressed at least in the brain of Ws/Ws rats despite the small deletion, we examined the expression of Fc epsilon RI beta-subunit and c-kit messenger RNA in the skin and stomach of Ws/Ws rats by reverse transcriptase modification of polymerase chain reaction. Expression of either Fc epsilon RI beta-subunit or c-kit messenger RNA in the skin and stomach of Ws/Ws rats was estimated to be less than 1% that of +/+ rats. Moreover no Fc epsilon RI beta-subunit-expressing and no c-kit-expressing cells were detectable in the skin of Ws/Ws rats by in situ hybridization histochemistry. The present result suggests the absence of immature mast cells in tissues of Ws/Ws rats.