Current knowledge of the mechanism of inflammatory mediator release from mast cells is reviewed with particular reference to the role of cyclic nucleotides and calcium and their interrelationship with one another as defined by studies in highly purified rat peritoneal mast cells. Data are presented indicating an important role for intracellular cAMP and calcium in the mediation or modulation of release, as well as evidence for a close relationship between these two regulatory systems. Releasing agents which clearly act at the level of the plasma membrane (concanavalin A and anti-IgE antibody) are shown to differ from releasing agents that may not (48/80 and the ionophore A23187) in regard to the early cellular cAMP response, dependency of the release reaction on phosphatidyl serine, and kinetics of release. Pharmacologic modulators of release are discussed; these include: PGE1 and theophylline, which raise cAMP and inhibit release; and diazoxide, adenine, and carbachol which lower cAMP and potentiate release. Adenosine was also found to enhance release with marked effects at concentrations in the low nanomolar range.