To assess the role of lysozyme in pulmonary host defense in vivo, transgenic mice expressing rat lysozyme cDNA in distal respiratory epithelial cells were generated. Two transgenic mouse lines were established in which the level of lysozyme protein in bronchoalveolar (BAL) lavage fluid was increased 2- or 4-fold relative to that in WT mice. Lung structure and cellular composition of BAL were not altered by the expression of lysozyme. Lysozyme activity in BAL was significantly increased (6.6- and 17-fold) in 5-wk-old animals from each transgenic line. To determine whether killing of bacteria was enhanced by expression of rat lysozyme, 5-wk-old transgenic mice and WT littermates were infected with 10(6) CFU of group B streptococci or 10(7) CFU of a mucoid strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa by intratracheal injection. Killing of group B streptococci was significantly enhanced (2- and 3-fold) in the mouse transgenic lines at 6 h postinfection and was accompanied by a decrease in systemic dissemination of pathogen. Killing of Pseudomonas aeruginosa was also enhanced in the transgenic lines (5- and 30-fold). Twenty-four hours after administration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, all transgenic mice survived, whereas 20% of the WT mice died. Increased production of lysozyme in respiratory epithelial cells of transgenic mice enhanced bacterial killing in the lung in vivo, and was associated with decreased systemic dissemination of pathogen and increased survival following infection.