This study was designed to examine the cellular distribution of the angiotensin II type-1 (AT1) and type-2 (AT2) receptors in the normal human and pathological human lung. Riboprobes were prepared against specific portions of each receptor DNA and labelled with FITC for detection using an anti-FITC antibody in combination with the alkaline phosphatase-anti-alkaline phosphatase technique and new Fuchsin. These were used to detect the presence of receptor mRNA in the lung. Specific antibodies were used to detect receptor protein in cells by immunocytochemistry. Image analysis was used in order to semi-quantify receptor density. AT1 receptor mRNA and protein were localised on vascular smooth muscle cells, macrophages and in the stroma underlying the airways epithelium probably relating to underlying fibroblasts. The AT1 receptor protein was not expressed in the epithelium although there was a low level of mRNA. In contrast, AT2 receptor RNA and protein was observed in the epithelium, with strong staining on the bronchial epithelial cell brush border and also on many of the underlying mucous glands. The AT2 receptor was also present on some endothelial cells. These findings were supported by the presence of mRNA in each case. In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, there was a five- to sixfold increase in the ratio of AT1 to AT2 receptors in the regions of marked fibrosis surrounding the bronchioles. This correlated well with the reduced lung function as expressed by the forced expiratory volume.