Implanted biomaterials trigger acute and chronic inflammatory responses. The mechanisms involved in such acute inflammatory responses can be arbitrarily divided into phagocyte transmigration, chemotaxis, and adhesion to implant surfaces. We earlier observed that two chemokines-macrophage inflammatory protein 1alpha/monocyte chemoattractant protein 1-and the phagocyte integrin Mac-1 (CD11b/CD18)/surface fibrinogen interaction are, respectively, required for phagocyte chemotaxis and adherence to biomaterial surfaces. However, it is still not clear how the initial transmigration of phagocytes through the endothelial barrier into the area of the implant is triggered. Because implanted biomaterials elicit histaminic responses in the surrounding tissue, and histamine release is known to promote rapid diapedesis of inflammatory cells, we evaluated the possible role of histamine and mast cells in the recruitment of phagocytes to biomaterial implants. Using i.p. and s. c. implantation of polyethylene terephthalate disks in mice we find: (i) Extensive degranulation of mast cells, accompanied by histamine release, occurs adjacent to short-term i.p. implants. (ii) Simultaneous administration of H1 and H2 histamine receptor antagonists (pyrilamine and famotidine, respectively) greatly diminishes recruitment and adhesion of both neutrophils (<20% of control) and monocytes/macrophages (<30% of control) to implants. (iii) Congenitally mast cell-deficient mice also exhibit markedly reduced accumulation of phagocytes on both i.p. and s.c implants. (iv) Finally, mast cell reconstitution of mast cell-deficient mice restores "normal" inflammatory responses to biomaterial implants. We conclude that mast cells and their granular products, especially histamine, are important in recruitment of inflammatory cells to biomaterial implants. Improved knowledge of such responses may permit purposeful modulation of both acute and chronic inflammation affecting implanted biomaterials.