The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)) is implicated in enhancing inflammatory reactions of skin, lung, and gastrointestinal tract. To determine whether 5-HT acts, in part, through mast cells (MC), we first established that mouse bone marrow-derived MC (mBMMC) and human CD34(+)-derived MC (huMC) expressed mRNA for multiple 5-HT receptors. We next determined the effect of 5-HT on mouse and human MC degranulation, adhesion, and chemotaxis. We found no evidence that 5-HT degranulates MC or modulates IgE-dependent activation. 5-HT did induce mBMMC and huMC adherence to fibronectin; and immature and mature mBMMC and huMC migration. Chemotaxis was accompanied by actin polymerization. Using receptor antagonists and pertussis toxin, we identified 5-HT(1A) as the principal receptor mediating the effects of 5-HT on MC. mBMMC from the 5-HT(1A) receptor knockout mouse (5-HT(1A)R(-/-)) did not respond to 5-HT. 5-HT did induce accumulation of MC in the dermis of 5-HT(1A)R(+/+) mice, but not in 5-HT(1A)R(-/-) mice. These studies are the first to demonstrate an effect of 5-HT on MC. Furthermore, both mouse and human MC respond to 5-HT through the 5-HT(1A) receptor. Our data are consistent with the conclusion that 5-HT promotes inflammation by increasing MC at the site of tissue injury.