The effect of heparin and poly-L-glutamate on the function of inhibitory M2 muscarinic autoreceptors on parasympathetic nerves in the lung was tested in antigen-challenged guinea pigs. After antigen challenge, M2 receptor function is decreased, thus increasing release of acetylcholine from the vagus and potentiating vagally induced bronchoconstriction. Guinea pigs were anesthetized, tracheostomized, vagotomized, paralyzed, and ventilated. Electrical stimulation of the vagi caused bronchoconstriction and bradycardia. In controls, pilocarpine attenuated vagally induced bronchoconstriction by stimulating neuronal M2 muscarinic receptors. Conversely, blocking these autoreceptors with gallamine potentiated vagally induced bronchoconstriction. In challenged animals the effects of both drugs were markedly reduced, confirming M2 receptor dysfunction. 20 min after heparin or poly-L-glutamate, the effects of both pilocarpine and gallamine on vagally induced bronchoconstriction were restored, demonstrating recovery of M2 receptor function. Neither heparin nor poly-L-glutamate affected vagally induced responses in control animals. Thus antigen-induced dysfunction of M2 receptors can be reversed by polyanionic polysaccharides (heparin) or polyanionic peptides (poly-L-glutamate). This suggests that a polycationic substance such as eosinophil major basic protein, cationic protein, or peroxidase may be responsible for antigen-induced pulmonary M2 receptor dysfunction.