We examined the effects of viral respiratory infection by Sendai virus on airway responsiveness to tachykinins in guinea pigs. We measured the change in total pulmonary resistance induced by substance P or capsaicin in the presence or absence of the neutral endopeptidase inhibitor, phosphoramidon, in infected and in noninfected animals. In the absence of phosphoramidon, the bronchoconstrictor responses to substance P and to capsaicin were greater in infected than in noninfected animals. Phosphoramidon did not further potentiate the responses to substance P and to capsaicin in the infected animals, whereas it did so in noninfected animals. Studies performed in vitro showed that nonadrenergic noncholinergic bronchial smooth muscle responses to electrical field stimulation were also increased in tissues from infected animals and that phosphoramidon increased the response of tissues from noninfected animals greatly but increased the responses of tissues from infected animals only slightly. Responses to acetylcholine were unaffected by viral infection. Neutral endopeptidase activity was decreased by 40% in the tracheal epithelial layer of the infected animals. We suggest that respiratory infection by Sendai virus causes enhanced airway responsiveness to tachykinins by decreasing neutral endopeptidase-like activity in the airway epithelium.