The role of strain difference in the response to cigarette smoke was investigated in mice. Mice of the strains DBA/2 and C57BL/6J responded to acute cigarette smoke with a decrease of the antioxidant defenses of their bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluids. On the other hand, under these conditions ICR mice increased their BAL antioxidant defenses. Mice of these three strains were then exposed to cigarette smoke (three cigarettes/d, 5 d/wk) for 7 mo. Lung elastin content was significantly decreased in C57BL/6J and DBA/2 but not in ICR mice. Also, emphysema, assessed morphometrically using three methods, was present in C57BL/6J and DBA/2 but not in ICR mice. In an additional study pallid mice, with a severe serum alpha(1)-proteinase inhibitor (alpha(1)-PI) deficiency and that develop spontaneous emphysema, were exposed to cigarette smoke for 4 mo. This resulted in an acceleration of the development of the spontaneous emphysema assessed with morphometrical and biochemical (lung elastin content) methods. All these results indicate that sensitivity to the effects of cigarette smoke is strain-dependent and cigarette smoke accelerates the effects of alpha(1)-PI deficiency.