Administration of butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) to mice causes lung damage characterized by the death of alveolar type I pneumocytes and the proliferation and subsequent differentiation of type II cells to replace them. Herein, we demonstrate this injury elicits an inflammatory response marked by chemokine secretion, alveolar macrophage recruitment, and elevated expression of enzymes in the eicosanoid pathway. Cytosolic phospholipase A(2) (cPLA(2)) catalyzes release of arachidonic acid from membrane phospholipids to initiate the synthesis of prostaglandins and other inflammatory mediators. A role for cPLA(2) in this response was examined by determining cPLA(2) expression and enzymatic activity in distal respiratory epithelia and macrophages and by assessing the consequences of cPLA(2) genetic ablation. BHT-induced lung inflammation, particularly monocyte infiltration, was depressed in cPLA(2) null mice. Monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) content in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid increases after BHT treatment but before monocyte influx, suggesting a causative role. Bronchiolar Clara cells isolated from cPLA(2) null mice secrete less MCP-1 than Clara cells from wild-type mice, consistent with the hypothesis that cPLA(2) is required to secrete sufficient MCP-1 to induce an inflammatory monocytic response.