The composition of the airway epithelium is dynamic and epithelial differentiation is regulated by endogenous mediators as well as inhaled substances. In atopic asthma the differentiation of the epithelium is altered. Various studies have addressed the ability of cultured airway epithelial cells to release the eosinophil-attractant chemokines eotaxin, eotaxin-2 and eotaxin-3 using epithelial cell lines or poorly differentiated primary cells. Since little is known about the role of the epithelial differentiation state in the response of epithelial cells to stimuli that increase production of mediators such as the eotaxins, we analyzed the effect of differentiation state on the production of the eotaxins. In particular, we investigated the effects of the Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 on eotaxin-2 and -3 production by primary human bronchial epithelial cells and examined whether their production is affected by epithelial cell differentiation using both submerged and air-liquid interface (ALI) cultures. The results show that both IL-4 and IL-13 increase eotaxin-2 and -3 mRNA expression and protein release in submerged- and ALI-cultures. Moreover, epithelial differentiation in ALI-cultures appeared an important determinant in the regulation of eotaxin-2 and -3. Mucociliary differentiation of the epithelial cells was induced by culture in the presence of a high concentration of retinoic acid (RA), whereas low concentrations of RA resulted in a flattened squamous epithelial phenotype. Mucociliary differentiated ALI-cultures expressed and released more eotaxin-3 upon stimulation with IL-4/IL-13, whereas eotaxin-2 production was predominantly found in squamous differentiated ALI-cultures. TNFalpha reduced IL-4-induced eotaxin-2 release in submerged cultures but not in ALI-cultures; no effects on eotaxin-3 synthesis were observed. The results indicate that epithelial differentiation is an important determinant in Th2 cytokine-induced eotaxin-2 and -3 release by airway epithelial cells. These findings may provide new insights into the role of airway epithelial differentiation and Th2 cytokines in the pathogenesis of inflammatory lung disorders such as asthma.