Despite the implication that choroidal mast cells are involved in the onset of experimental autoimmune uveoretinitis (EAU), a widely used animal model of uveoretinitis, little is known of these cells. In the present study the distribution, total number, regional density, and phenotype of choroidal mast cells were examined in Lewis, Wistar Furth, PVG/c, and brown Norway rats. Choroidal mast cells were predominantly associated with arteries and arterioles of more than 30 pm diameter which lie in the outer (sclerad) choroid. The density of mast cells was greatest in the posterior choroid with density diminishing anteriorly. The choroid of male Lewis rats contained significantly greater number of mast cells than that of females (p<001). Histochemical (Alcian blue/safranin) and immunohistochemical (anti-rat mast cell protease I and II monoclonal antibodies) studies revealed choroidal mast cells were of the connective tissue type. However, granule proteinase content appeared less than that of well characterised connective tissue mast cell populations such as those in mesentery and skin. Lewis rats exhibited the highest density of choroidal mast cells (23.6 (SD 1.2)/mm2), Wistar Furth approximately half that ofLewis (13-5 (0.7)/mm2) while PVG/c and brown Norway rats had very low densities (3.06 (0.3); 1-95 (0.2)/mm2 respectively). These studies provide valuable choroidal mast cell data for rats which may have implications for our understanding of experimental models of intraocular inflammation and clinical uveitis.