To elucidate the link between the intake of animal fat and asthma, a murine model was developed to examine the effect of dietary cholesterol on pulmonary allergic inflammation. Male C57BL6 mice were fed either a control diet or a diet supplemented with 2% cholesterol. Following sensitization and inhalation exposure to ovalbumin, the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of mice in the cholesterol group contained higher numbers of eosinophils and elevated levels of IL-5, PGE(2), and MCP-1. In addition, dietary cholesterol also resulted in elevated production of IL-4 and IFN-gamma by lymphocytes isolated from the lungs. These inflammatory indicators were all significantly correlated with serum cholesterol levels. In contrast to the effect of dietary cholesterol, adding pravastatin to the drinking water significantly reduced eosinophil infiltration and the levels of IL-5, PGE(2) and MCP-1 in lavage fluid. Although dietary cholesterol did not alter baseline IL-12 in the lungs, in mice challenged with ovalbumin the IL-12 levels were reduced in the cholesterol group and elevated significantly in the pravastatin group. The results suggest that dietary cholesterol might enhance pulmonary allergic inflammation, possibly involving both nonspecific inflammatory processes and lymphocyte activities.