Pericryptal fibroblasts (PFs), a class of myofibroblasts, have strongly been implicated in the regulation of villous structure because of their location close to crypts and their ability to secrete cytokines affecting intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation. Recently, mast cells (MCs) have also been involved in the homeostasis of villous architecture. As myofibroblasts arise in a wide variety of settings concurrently with a local increase in the number of tissue MCs, we calculated in this study the density of both PF and distinct pericryptal MC phenotypes in the mucosa of human duodenum showing normal, defective, or atrophic villous profiles. In addition, we evaluated the statistical association between PF-MC densities and each pattern of villous architecture. Finally, we correlated the density of PF with the density of pericryptal MC phenotypes. For this purpose, samples taken by endoscopy from 30 patients complaining of inflammatory bowel disorders were studied by immunohistochemistry. The densities of α-smooth muscle actin-positive PFs as well as tryptase-, chymase-, and c-kit-positive MCs were determined in the crypt lamina propria. Villous architecture was found to be significantly associated with the number of PFs and tryptase-, chymase-, c-kit-positive MCs in the lamina propria (ANOVA group effect P < 0.001). High density of both PFs and MCs was found in intestinal samples with normal villous morphology while lower densities were associated with defective or atrophic villous profiles (Tukey's test for multiple comparison P < 0.001). In addition, a significant correlation was found between PF density and the density of each pericryptal MC phenotype (vs. tryptase-positive MCs, r = 0.913; vs. chymase-positive MC, r = 0.905; vs. c-kit-positive MC, r = 0.927; P < 0.001 in all cases). This study provides morphological support for an important cooperation between PFs and MCs in maintaining normal villous architecture. Anat Rec Part A 288A:593–600, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.