The distribution, density and histochemical characteristics of mast cells in the lungs of the Japanese quail were investigated during the post-hatching period. In the period starting from the first to the 60th day post-hatching, based on proteoglycan content, three types of mast cells, which were alcian blue-positive, safranin O-positive and alcian blue/safranin O-positive, were found to exist in the lungs. The application of staining with berberine sulphate demonstrated that, similar to the distribution of safranin O-positive cells, the heparin-containing cells were located in the periphery of large blood vessels. The percentages of mast cells in different localization sites of the lungs were found to vary with age in the post-hatching period with toluidine blue staining. The lack of any statistically significant increase/decrease in the number of mast cells per unit area of the right and left lung lobes is partially in favour of the proposal that the mast cell number increases with the growth of the lung volume in the post-hatching period. (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.