Airways of Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) (NKCC1)-deficient mice (-/-) were studied in Ussing chambers to determine the role of the basolateral NKCC1 in transepithelial anion secretion. The basal short-circuit current (I(sc)) of tracheae and bronchi from adult mice did not differ between NKCC1-/- and normal mice, whereas NKCC1-/- tracheae from neonatal mice exhibited a significantly reduced basal I(sc). In normal mouse tracheae, sensitivity to the NKCC1 inhibitor bumetanide correlated inversely with the age of the mouse. In contrast, tracheae from NKCC1-/- mice at all ages were insensitive to bumetanide. The anion secretory response to forskolin did not differ between normal and NKCC1-/- tissues. However, when larger anion secretory responses were induced with UTP, airways from the NKCC1-/- mice exhibited an attenuated response. Ion substitution and drug treatment protocols suggested that HCO secretion compensated for reduced Cl(-) secretion in NKCC1-/- airway epithelia. The absence of spontaneous airway disease or pathology in airways from the NKCC1-/- mice suggests that the NKCC1 mutant mice are able to compensate adequately for absence of the NKCC1 protein.