Normal mast cells can be propagated in culture when medium is supplemented with interleukin-3 (IL-3) Abelson-MuLV , which also productively infect mast cells, are unable to relieve IL-3 dependence. Ab-MuLV-induced IL-3-independent lines express the v-abl-specific transforming protein and have phenotypic characteristics of mast cells. These cells also possess high cloning efficiencies in soft agarose and are tumorigenic in nude mice. In addition, Ab-MuLV induces transplantable mastocytomas in pristane-primed adult mice resistant to lymphoid transformation, defining a new hematopoietic target for malignant transformation by this virus. None of the Ab-MuLV-derived transformants express or secrete detectable levels of IL-3 nor is their growth inhibited by anti-IL-3 serum. Ab-MuLV abrogation of the IL-3 requirement is not due to an autocrine mechanism.