Interleukin-1beta has been reported to induce airway hyperresponsiveness in several animal models. In this study, we have investigated whether interleukin-1beta was able to potentiate the contractions of human isolated small bronchi (internal diameter < or = 1 mm) provoked by a specific tachykinin NK1 receptor agonist, [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P. Pre-incubation of human isolated small bronchi with interleukin-1beta (10 ng/ml, in Krebs-Henseleit solution, at 21 degrees C for 15 h) potentiated the contractile response to [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P. It also increased the [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P-induced release of thromboxane B2, the stable metabolite of thromboxane A2. Indomethacin (10(-6) M), a non-specific cyclooxygenase inhibitor, or GR 32191 ((1R-(1alpha(Z)),2beta,3beta,5alpha))-(+)-7-(5-(((1,1' -biphenyl)-4-yl)-methoxy)-3-hydroxy-2-(1-piperidinyl)cyclopentyl)-4-hept enoic acid, hydrochloride) (10(-6) M), a prostanoid TP-receptor antagonist, blocked the contractions induced by [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P both in control experiments and after interleukin-1beta pre-treatment, indicating that prostanoids and thromboxane receptors are directly implicated in the [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P-induced contractile response. The thromboxane mimetic U-46619 (10(-8)-10(-6) M) (9,11-dideoxy-11alpha,9alpha-epoxymethano-prostaglandin F2alpha)-induced contractions of human isolated small bronchi were not enhanced by interleukin-1beta pre-treatment, suggesting that no up-regulation of thromboxane receptors occurred. Furthermore, the cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor CGP 28238 (6-(2,4-difluorophenoxy)-5-methyl-sulfonylamino-1-indanon e) (10(-6) M) had no direct effect on [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P-provoked contractions, but inhibited the interleukin-1beta-induced potentiation of [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P response. In conclusion, our results show that interleukin-1beta pre-treatment is able to potentiate the contractions of isolated human small bronchi provoked by [Sar9,Met(O2)11]substance P both by increasing prostanoid synthesis and by inducing a cyclooxygenase-2 pathway.