Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a chronic lung disease that affects prematurely born infants and appears to evolve in part from early inflammatory responses in the lung. The inflammatory responses have been associated with protein and lipid oxidation in tracheal aspirate fluids. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that in the first week of life specific oxidations and/ or altered expressions of proteins would be observed in tracheal aspirate fluids in infants who would subsequently develop BPD. We obtained tracheal aspirate fluids on Days of life 1, 3, and 6 from infants born at < or = 29 wk gestation, incubated the fluids with 2,4-dinitrophenylhyrazine (DNPH), separated the proteins electrophoretically, and assessed DNPH reactivity by immunonblots. DNPH reactivity of a protein that was identified as Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) was observed more consistently in tracheal aspirate fluids from infants who later developed BPD than from infants who did not develop BPD. Tracheal aspirate fluid levels of immunoreactive CCSP were also lower on Day of life 1 in infants who developed BPD than in those who did not develop BPD. Increased CCSP oxidation and decreased immunoreactive CCSP expression in infants who subsequently developed BPD suggest that Clara cell function and CCSP expression may be critical for normal bronchoalveolar fluid homeostasis and that maintaining CCSP expression and function may be useful goals for targeted therapies for inhibition of the development of BPD.