A study was performed to evaluate the use of precision-cut lung slices (PCLS) for studies on the contraction of equine airways. Lungs of 10 horses were taken to prepare PCLS of approximately 250 microm from equine lung tissue using a special microtome. The lung slices were cultured and the enclosed small airways were monitored using a microscope with coupled digital camera, which was used to determine the airway luminal area and diameter from digital images. As indicated by the beating of the ciliated epithelium and reactivity of airways on methacholine challenge, the tissue slices were found to be viable for at least 24 h. The airways were not precontracted, as indicated by a missing dilatory effect of 1 mmol/L clenbuterol. Bronchoconstriction induced by both methacholine and histamine was found to be dose dependent. EC(50) values based on luminal area were 1.12 micromol/L x / / 3.82 for methacholine and 0.68 micromol/L x / / 6.99 for histamine. In conclusion, the PCLS technique is promising for studies on small airways in the equine lung. In the present study the basic principles of in vitro (ex vivo) examinations with equine PCLS on airway reactivity were developed.