Antenatal exposure to glucocorticoids, amnionitis, intraamniotic interleukin (IL)-1alpha, or endotoxin can improve postnatal lung function after preterm delivery. The relationship between early lung maturation and the dose and duration of a proinflammatory stimulus has not been evaluated. The effects of proinflammatory stimuli on fetal plasma cortisol also have not been evaluated. We hypothesized that intraamniotic endotoxin would induce early lung maturation in fetal sheep without increasing fetal cortisol. Intraamniotic injections of 1, 4, 20, or 100 mg of Escherichia coli 055:beta5 endotoxin caused 2-fold increases in compliance, 4- to 5-fold increases in lung gas volumes, and 20-fold increases in alveolar saturated phosphatidylcholine (Sat PC) when given 7 d before preterm delivery at 125 d gestation. Animals treated with 20 mg endotoxin for treatment to delivery intervals of 5 h to 15 d had no significant elevations in cord plasma cortisol levels. Increases in Sat PC in lung tissue and alveolar washes were detected 2 d after endotoxin treatment and lung function improved 4 d after endotoxin treatment. Two doses of endotoxin given 3 and 7 d or 7 and 15 d before treatment resulted in lung maturation responses equivalent to single dose comparison groups without elevations in cortisol. Early lung maturation induced by intraamniotic endotoxin in fetal sheep occurred without an increase in fetal plasma cortisol, indicating that endotoxin promoted lung maturation by a mechanism independent of cortisol.