Differences in dermal mast cell prevalence for adult mice of different strains have been reported previously. In this study, the dermal mast cell prevalence for BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice at 6 weeks of age was similar but as BALB/c mice matured from 6 to 10 weeks of age, their dermal mast cell prevalence halved. In contrast, there was no significant difference in the dermal mast cell prevalence of 6- and 10-week-old C57BL/6 mice. These differences determined the degree of susceptibility of BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice of different ages to UVB (UV radiation of wavelength 280-320 nm)-induced systemic immunosuppression. Expression of the receptor for stem cell factor, Kit protein, was examined on mast cells under conditions in which the dermal mast cell prevalence varied. A significant correlation was observed between Kit expression by mast cells from adult BALB/c, DBA/2 and C57BL/6 mice and dermal mast cell prevalence. In BALB/c mice, mast cell Kit expression decreased as the mice matured from 6 to 10 weeks of age and correlated with the reduction in dermal mast cell numbers. Kit levels on dermal mast cells from C57BL/6 mice were consistently higher than on mast cells from BALB/c mice although significant reductions in Kit were also measured with ageing from 6 to 10 weeks. We hypothesize that regardless of the extent of Kit expression, the dermal mast cell populations were maximally expanded in C57BL/6 mice. We suggest that BALB/c mice of 6 and 10 weeks of age are useful hosts in which to quantitatively evaluate mast cell involvement in a range of functional assays involving skin.