The contractile response to cysteinyl-leukotrienes was studied in isolated human pulmonary arterial rings. Concentration-response curves for leukotriene C(4) were significantly potentiated by the cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin (1.7 microM) and after endothelial denudation. Measurements of 6-keto prostaglandin F(1alpha) showed that cysteinyl-leukotrienes stimulated the release of prostacyclin. A single concentration (1 microM) of either leukotriene C(4) or leukotriene D(4) resulted in both contraction and relaxation. Indomethacin abolished the relaxant phase and enhanced the amplitude of the contraction, supporting that cysteinyl-leukotriene-induced contractions of the human pulmonary artery may be functionally antagonised by the release of prostacyclin. The contractions induced by leukotriene C(4) were resistant to the two cysteinyl-leukotriene receptor antagonists MK 571 ((3-(-2(7-chloro-2-quinolinyl)ethenyl)phenyl)((3-(dimethylamino-3-oxo propyl)thio)methyl)thio propanoic acid, 1 microM) and BAY u9773 (6(R)-(4'-carboxyphenylthio)-5(S)-hydroxy-7(E),9(E), 11(Z)14(Z)-eicosatetrenoic acid, 3 microM), both in the absence and presence of indomethacin. These findings suggest a functional cysteinyl-leukotriene receptor in the human pulmonary artery with antagonist properties not previously described in human tissue.