Elafin is a low molecular weight antiproteinase believed to be important in the regulation of elastase mediated tissue damage. The expression of elafin is known to be regulated by proinflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1 beta and tumour necrosis factor but little was known regarding the effect of human neutrophil elastase (HNE). Employing a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter construct of the human elafin gene, reverse transcription PCR from total cellular RNA and ELISA techniques, we have examined the effect of human neutrophil elastase on the transcription and secretion of human elafin in the pulmonary epithelial A549 cell line. Stimulation with HNE at concentrations of 10(-10) and 10(-11) M resulted in a significant upregulation of elafin promoter activity. Similarly, transcription of the endogenous human elafin gene was upregulated with HNE concentrations ranging from 10(-10) to 10(-12) M. In addition, we demonstrate that stimulation with HNE at concentrations ranging from 10(-9) and 10(-12) M resulted in a significant reduction in the secreted elafin protein as measured in the cell supernatant. These results provide further evidence for a role of elafin in the regulation of HNE driven proteolysis of the extracellular matrix.