The distribution and concentration of human T (tryptase-positive, chymase-negative) and TC (tryptase-positive, chymase-positive) mast cells were examined in Carnoy's-fixed specimens of the gastrointestinal tract of normal individuals, patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, and patients with immunodeficiency disorders. In normal specimens, T mast cells predominated in the mucosa (89%), with a mean concentration of 17,850 ± 4,998 per mm3 (± SD, n = 16), whereas TC mast cells predominated in the submucosa (90%) with a mean concentration of 7,516 ± 1,227 per mm3 (± SD, n = 16). The concentrations of T and TC mast cells in specimens of ileum from five patients with active Crohn's disease and of colon from three patients with active ulcerative colitis were not significantly different (p greater than 0.4) from normal values. Three patients with combined immunodeficiency disorders demonstrated a marked decrease in the concentration of the T mast cells in the intestinal mucosa, to 540 ± 630, and a corresponding decrease in the percentage of T mast cells to 9%. Concentrations of TC mast cells were unchanged, both in the mucosa and in the submucosa. In three patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a similar deficiency of the T mast cell type was observed in the ileal mucosa, with a mean concentration of 788 ± 534 T mast cells per mm3, but not in the appendiceal and colonic mucosa of one of the three patients. These findings indicate a role for functional T lymphocytes in the development of the T mast cell type in humans, and suggest divergent pathways for development of T and TC mast cells.