The inflammatory response during allergen-induced asthma was assessed using serial measures of peripheral blood eosinophils (Eo), basophils (B), and Eo/B progenitor cells (Eo/B-CFU). A group of 14 stable asthmatic individuals (beta 2-agonists only as needed) had inhalation provocation tests with allergen (18 tests in total) and with diluent. Serial blood samples were taken before and 1 and 24 h after the tests; methylcellulose cultures for Eo/B-CFU and granulocyte-macrophage (GM-CFU) were scored at 14 days. Circulating Eo, B, and Eo/B-CFU were increased at 24 h after allergen inhalation when this resulted in increased histamine airway responsiveness (n = 13). In the 5 subjects with isolated early asthmatic responses the Eo, B, and Eo/B-CFU counts did not change. There was no change in the GM-CFU after allergen. The ratio change in circulating Eo/B-CFU was negatively correlated with baseline histamine airway responsiveness (r = -0.8, p less than 0.05). Four subjects who had an isolated early response and no blood changes to one allergen developed an increase in histamine airway responsiveness and an increase in Eo, B, and Eo/B progenitors after inhalation of a second different allergen. The results indicate that in subjects with an allergen-induced increase in histamine airway responsiveness, an inflammatory response occurs that includes an increase in the number of Eo/B progenitors. This response, possibly mediated by Eo/B growth and differentiation factors, could lead to the accumulation of these cells in the airway and contribute to the airways inflammation present in asthma.