The increased number and early activation of cutaneous mast cells is a typical feature of psoriatic inflammation. Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) is believed to be one of the important mediators in the cytokine cascade of psoriasis. Human mast cells have been previously reported to release various cytokines upon stimulation including interleukin (IL) -4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-13 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha. Here we report that human mast cells synthesize also IFN-γ at mRNA and protein level and that the number of IFN-γ producing mast cells is significantly increased in the psoriatic skin. IFN-γ immunoreactivity in mast cells was demonstrated by staining non-lesional and lesional skin sections from 21 patients with psoriasis. Ten patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and five healthy persons served as control groups. The percentage (mean ± SD) of IFN-γ + mast cells in lesional compared with non-lesional psoriatic skin was 67 ± 18% vs. 44 ± 17% (P < 0.0001, paired t-test), respectively, but only 9 ± 6% vs. 10 ± 7% in corresponding skin samples of AD. In the skin of healthy controls, only 12 ± 12% of the mast cells were IFN-γ +. Using immunoelectron microscopy, we confirmed the ultrastructural localization of IFN-γ within the granules of mast cells in psoriatic skin. In addition, stimulation of a human mast cell line HMC-1 with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) (100 nmol/L) for periods of 2–24 h induced expression of IFN-γ mRNA, which peaked at 24 h. When HMC-1 cells were stimulated with PMA (100 nmol/L) for periods of 0–3 days, the cells released IFN-γ protein, peaking on day 1. These results provide further evidence for the important role of mast cells in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.