Airway reactivity to histamine was determined in a group of non-asthmatic and asthmatic patients prior to thoracotomy. The latter group was more reactive to histamine provocation than the former (PC40: 28.40 +/- 6.27 mg/ml and 1.15 +/- 0.19 mg/ml, respectively). Subsequent to the surgical intervention, isolated human bronchial muscle preparations were obtained from both groups (15 non-asthmatic and 5 asthmatic subjects). Histamine concentration-effect curves were generated both in the absence and in the presence of indomethacin (1.7 microM; 30 min). Neither the basal tone nor the histamine response and sensitivity of the preparations were altered by the antiinflammatory drug. In bronchial preparations from one asthmatic subject, indomethacin significantly reduced the prostaglandin production during histamine contraction. Prostaglandin E2 and F2 alpha contracted isolated human bronchial muscle preparations from these asthmatic individuals. These data suggest that endogenous prostaglandins may not regulate the contractile response to histamine in vitro.