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Canine cutaneous mast cell tumors (MCT) of different histological grades have distinct biological behaviors. However, little is known about underlying molecular mechanisms that lead to tumor development and increasing malignancy with higher tumor grade. Recent studies have identified the interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) subunits CD25 and CD2 as markers that distinguish nonneoplastic from neoplastic mast cells in human systemic mastocytosis. In this study, their potential as a marker for canine MCT and their possible impact on MCT carcinogenesis were evaluated. mRNA expression levels of both genes were compared between grade 1 (n = 12) and grade 3 (n = 8) MCT, and protein expression levels of CD25 were compared in 90 MCT of different tumor grades. mRNA expression levels of both CD25 and CD2 were upregulated in grade 3 MCT. In contrast, CD25 protein was expressed by fewer tumor cells and at decreased levels in grade 3 tumors, while most grade 1 MCT had strong CD25 protein expression. Moreover, CD25 was not expressed by nonneoplastic, resting cutaneous mast cells, while few presumably activated mast cells in tissue samples from dogs with allergic dermatitis had weak CD25 expression. Taken together, these findings suggest that CD25 may play a critical role in early MCT development and may be a stimulatory factor in grade 1 MCT, while grade 3 MCT seem to be less dependent on CD25. Because of the low number of CD25-positive tumor cells in high-grade tumors, the usefulness of CD25 as a tumor marker is, however, questionable.