Glucocorticoids inhibit plasma extravasation induced in the rat tracheal mucosa by substance P and other tachykinins released from sensory nerves. This study was performed to determine whether this antiinflammatory effect of glucocorticoids is mediated by the tachykinin-degrading enzymes neutral endopeptidase (NEP) and kininase II (angiotensin converting enzyme, ACE). In addition, we studied the effect of dexamethasone on a nonpeptide inflammatory mediator, platelet-activating factor (PAF), which is not degraded by NEP or ACE. Adult male pathogen-free F344 rats were treated for 2 d with dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg per d i.p.), or with the vehicle used to dissolve the steroid. The magnitude of plasma extravasation produced by an intravenous injection of substance P (5 micrograms/kg) or PAF (10 micrograms/kg) was then assessed by using Monastral blue pigment as an intravascular tracer. The role of NEP and ACE activities in the changes produced by dexamethasone was investigated by examining the effect of the selective inhibitors of these enzymes, phosphoramidon and captopril. Dexamethasone reduced the substance P-induced extravasation by 57% but did not affect the PAF-induced extravasation. The suppressive effect of dexamethasone on substance P-induced extravasation was completely reversed by simultaneously inhibiting NEP and ACE activities, but the inhibition of these enzymes had no effect on PAF-induced extravasation, regardless of whether the rats were pretreated with dexamethasone or not. These results suggest that NEP and ACE mediate a selective inhibitory effect of glucocorticoids on neurogenic plasma extravasation.