The prevalence of asthma has increased worldwide. The reasons for this rise remain unclear. Oxidative stress plays an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma. Glutathione (GSH) is the major representative of the class of nonprotein thiols and plays a pivotal role in a variety of enzymatic and nonenzymatic reactions that protect tissues against oxidative stress. In antioxidative reactions, GSH is converted into its oxidized form, glutathione disulfide (GSSG) that in its turn is enzymatically reduced into GSH to maintain a physiological redox balance. We used a guinea pig model of asthma to assess whether the early asthmatic reaction is associated with decreased lung levels of glutathione, and whether decreased glutathione is implicated in the increased airway smooth muscle reactivity that is associated with exposure of the lungs to allergen. Lung glutathione levels were decreased immediately after the onset of the early asthmatic reaction in vivo and associated with the release of 8-iso-PGF(2alpha), an indicator for oxidative stress. Glutathione ethylester, a glutathione precursor, blunted the airway obstruction during an early asthmatic reaction in a perfusion model and glutathione depletion rendered the airways hyperreactive. Glutathione ethyl ester in the buffer prevented this hyperreactivity. These results indicate that glutathione can modulate the early asthmatic reaction as well as the airway hyperresponsiveness.