Airways responsiveness to leukotriene (LT) C4, LTD4, LTE4, histamine, and methacholine have been studied in eight asthmatic and six normal subjects. Airways responsiveness to each bronchoconstrictor agonist was assessed by constructing cumulative dose-response curves, and the dose that produced a 35% decrease in specific airways conductance (PD35) was obtained by linear interpolation. Airways of subjects with asthma were approximately 14-, 15-, 6-, 9-, and 219-fold more responsive to histamine, methacholine, LTC4, LTD4, and LTE4, respectively, than were normal subjects. Thus, there was a substantially augmented level of hyperresponsiveness to LTE4 in bronchial asthma, which was not observed for the other bronchoconstrictor agents, when compared to normal subjects. In contrast to LTC4 and LTD4, as histamine and methacholine responsiveness increase, the dose ratio of histamine to LTE4 (PD35 histamine/PD35 LTE4) and the dose ratio of methacholine to LTE4 also tended to increase. This suggests that as the nonspecific airways responsiveness increases, the relative potency of LTE4 also increases, whereas potency of LTC4 and LTD4 decrease. These results suggest that the mechanism of the bronchoconstriction induced by LTE4 may be distinct from that produced by LTC4 or LTD4 in subjects with asthma. This may reflect leukotriene subtype receptor heterogeneity in asthmatic airways.