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Although the alpha 2 beta 1 integrin is widely expressed and has been extensively studied, it has not been previously implicated in mast cell biology. We observed that alpha 2 integrin subunit-deficient mice exhibited markedly diminished neutrophil and interleukin-6 responses during Listeria monocytogenes- and zymosan-induced peritonitis. Since exudative neutrophils of wild-type mice expressed little alpha 2 beta 1 integrin, it seemed unlikely that this integrin mediated neutrophil migration directly. Here, we demonstrate constitutive alpha 2 beta 1 integrin expression on peritoneal mast cells. Although alpha 2-null mice contain normal numbers of peritoneal mast cells, these alpha 2-null cells do not support in vivo mast cell-dependent inflammatory responses. We conclude that alpha 2 beta 1 integrin provides a costimulatory function required for mast cell activation and cytokine production in response to infection.