The reaction of nitric oxide (NO) and superoxide anions (O(2)(-)) in the airway results in the formation of peroxynitrite, a highly reactive oxidant species. Peroxynitrite reacts with tyrosine residues in proteins to form the stable product nitrotyrosine. We investigated whether nitrotyrosine in exhaled breath condensates may be increased in patients with asthma. Four groups of nonsmoking subjects were studied. We measured exhaled NO, nitrotyrosine, and leukotrienes concentrations in breath condensate in healthy nonatopic subjects (n = 15) and in patients with mild asthma (steroid naive, n = 15), moderate asthma (inhaled steroid treatment, n = 12), and severe asthma (oral steroid treatment, n = 12). Exhaled NO was increased significantly in patients with mild (19.2 +/- 2.7 ppb, p < 0.01) and moderate asthma (14.0 +/- 1.53 ppb, p < 0.05), as compared with normal control (6.58 +/- 0.61 ppb). The levels of LTC(4)/D(4)/E(4) and LTB(4) were increased significantly in patients with moderate and severe asthma treated with steroids. Nitrotyrosine concentrations were detectable (6.3 +/- 0.8 ng/ml) in breath condensate of normal subjects, and were increased significantly in patients with mild asthma (15.3 +/- 2.0 ng/ml, p < 0.01). However, the levels of nitrotyrosine in exhaled condensate were lower in patients with moderate (5.0 +/- 0.6 ng/ml) and severe asthma (3.3 +/- 0.6 ng/ml, p < 0.05). There was a significant correlation between nitrotyrosine in breath condensate and exhaled NO in patients with mild asthma (r = 0.65, p < 0.05). We conclude that nitrotyrosine formation in exhaled breath condensates may be a marker of oxidative stress in airways of asthma.