Physiologic concentrations of human gastrin I (G17) and a synthetic analog of the carboxy-terminal region of gastrin, pentagastrin, provoked a dose-related release of histamine from human cutaneous mast cells in vitro. The N-terminal tridecapeptide portion of gastrin (G1-13) neither stimulated histamine release nor blocked the action of G17. In vivo correlation studies demonstrated that low concentrations (10(-12)M to 10(-10)M) of G17 or pentagastrin administered intradermally provoked a modest but definite wheal-and-flare response in four out of six normal subjects and a more marked, dose-related response in a patient with mastocytosis. These results indicate that physiologic concentrations of gastrin can stimulate mediator release from human cutaneous mast cells. We propose that this response may be mediated through receptors recognizing the carboxy-terminal region of the gastrin molecule. The possible role of gastrin-induced human mast cell-mediator release should be considered in the assessment of allergic disorders and in experimental models investigating mast cell function.