Cigarette smoke is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), where it can contribute to the observed airway inflammation. PGE(2) is produced within human airways, and both pro- and anti-inflammatory activities have been reported. We quantitated PGE(2) concentrations in induced sputum supernatants from different groups of subjects and correlated the obtained values to neutrophil infiltration as well as to the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Cigarette smoke extract (CSE) was used to evaluate the effect of smoking on COX-2 and PGE(2) receptor expression as well as on PGE(2) release in neutrophils and alveolar macrophages (AM) obtained from normal donors. The effects of PGE(2) and of PGE receptor agonists and antagonists were evaluated on the adhesion of neutrophil to a human bronchial epithelial cell line (16HBE). PGE(2) levels, COX-2 expression, and neutrophil infiltration were significantly higher in normal smokers and COPD smokers (P < 0.0001) compared with controls and COPD former smokers. Induced sputum supernatant caused neutrophil adhesion to 16HBE that was significantly reduced, in COPD smokers only, by PGE(2) immunoprecipitation. In vitro experiments confirmed that CSE increased PGE(2) release and COX-2 and PGE(2) receptor expression in neutrophils and AM; PGE(2) enhanced the adhesion of neutrophils to 16HBE, and a specific E-prostanoid 4 (EP(4)) receptor antagonist blunted its effect. These results suggest that CSE promote the induction of COX-2 and contributes to the proinflammatory effects of PGE(2) in the airways of COPD subjects.