We have used an atomic force microscope to study the mechanical properties of the matrix found in the lumen of secretory granules isolated from mast cells. The matrices were insoluble and had an average height of 474 ± 197 nm. The volume of these matrices increased reversibly about tenfold by decreasing the valency of the bathing external cation (La3+ < Ca2+ < Na+). The elastic (Young's) modulus was found to decrease by about 100-fold (4.3 MPa in La3+ to 37 kPa in Na+) upon a tenfold increase in the matrix volume. A swollen granule matrix had an elastic modulus similar to that of gelatin in water. The elastic modulus was inversely related to the change in the volume of the matrix, following a relationship similar to that predicted for the elasticity of weakly cross-linked polymers. Our results show that the matrix of these secretory granules have the mechanical properties of weak ion exchange resins, lending strong support to an ion exchange mechanism for the storage and release of cationic secretory products.