Abstract: In order to better understand the mechanisms governing display of mast cell characteristics in human myeloid cells, we have studied the mast cell phenotype in human promyelocytic (HL-60) and myelocytic (U-937, TPH-1) vs. basophilic (KU-812) and mast cell (HMC-1) lines, in part also in skin mast cells and blood monocytes, at mRNA and protein level before and after stimulation with mast cell growth factors. In unstimulated cells, mRNA for the stem cell factor (SCF) receptor c-kit and the gamma chain of the high-affinity IgE receptor (FcεRI) was noted in all cells studied. Like mast and basophilic cells, THP-1 cells expressed the FcεRIα and β chains and weakly histidine decarboxylase (HDC), but they lacked mRNA for mast cell-specific proteases [tryptase, chymase, carboxypeptidase A (CPA)]. In contrast, HL-60 and U-937 cells lacked FcεRIα, but expressed tryptase and chymase, HL-60 cells also CPA. KU-812 cells failed to express the basophil-specific marker 2D7. After a 10-day culture with SCF or fibroblast supernatants, baseline mRNA expression of most mast cell characteristics was upregulated, whereas c-kit mRNA expression decreased in all but THP-1 cells. Differential mRNA expression of FcεRI vs. protease (tryptase) was confirmed at protein level by immunocytochemistry and enzymatic activity. KU-812 cells are thus closest to skin mast cells in that they express all molecules studied, except for chymase, followed by THP-1 cells that lack all mast cell proteases. In contrast, HL-60 and U-937 cells fail to express the FcεRIα and β chains but express most mast cell proteases. The selective and differential expression of mast cell characteristics in human myeloid cell lines suggests that induction of the mast cell phenotype is regulated by several independent genes and that mast cells and basophils branch off at early and distinct points of myeloid development.