Mastomys is a rodent which has been reported to develop spontaneous antral endocrine tumors with acid hypersecretion and duodenal ulceration. This study documents the establishment of a breeding colony and the characterization of the tumors and their possible secretagogues. Parietal cell secretory characteristics were studied using isolated gastric glands (IGG) of both normal (n = 5) and tumor-bearing animals. Tumors (n = 6) and control gastric tissue samples were examined by light transmission microscopy and immunohistochemistry. Gastrin was measured by radioimmunoassay in both plasma and tissue. IGG were prepared by collagenase dispersion and acid sequestration assessed by [14C]AP accumulation. Secretory mechanisms of this species were identified by establishment of a histamine dose-response curve and use of 8-bromo-cAMP. Receptor and proton pump inhibitions were assessed using cimetidine (10(-5)M) and the H/K ATPase inhibitor omeprazole (10(-5]. Both reduced [14C]AP accumulation significantly (P less than 0.05). 8-Bromo-cAMP and histamine significantly stimulated [14C]AP accumulation (P less than 0.05). Although parietal cells were substantially increased in tumor animals as compared to controls, the physiological parameters of acid secretion appeared normal in both and were comparable to other species which have been studied. Tumors were Grimelius positive and contained diffuse electron-dense granules. Immunohistochemistry was negative for gastrin, bombesin, serotonin, neuron-specific enolase, calcitonin, and pancreatic polypeptide. Tumor histamine-like immunoreactivity was, however, positive. Normal stomach contained 1001 +/- 185 compared to less than 0.5 pmole/g gastrin in tumors. Plasma gastrin was normal in both groups (29 +/- 5) as compared to 26 +/- 8 pmole/liter. This study characterizes a spontaneous gastric endocrine tumor which is associated with apparent parietal cell hyperplasia and reports of increased acid secretion and duodenal ulceration. The observations are consistent with the elaboration by the tumor of a nongastrin acid-trophic secretagogue.